Intelligence officials have "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed Russian interference in the U.S. election. Further, the intelligence community knew that Russia was interfering — and communicated that to the major parties — and, while Democrats raised the alarm, Republicans did nothing.
NBC News reports that two senior U.S. intelligence officials have disclosed that the intelligence community believes, with "a high level of confidence," that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed the campaign to disrupt and influence the election.
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.
Putin's "vendetta" against Clinton dates back to 2011, when he held her responsible for mass protests in Moscow following an election the protestors accused him of rigging.
[Putin] pointed an angry finger at Clinton, who had issued a statement sharply critical of the voting results. “She said they were dishonest and unfair,” Putin fumed in public remarks, saying that Clinton gave “a signal” to demonstrators working “with the support of the U.S. State Department” to undermine his power. “We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs,” Putin declared.
In 2016, according to intelligence officials, he sought his revenge.
The Russians' interference, if not Putin's exact role, was known some time before Election Day. Democrats — including Hillary Clinton herself — raised the alarm.
Republicans, whose emails were not being released, declined to address the unprecedented interference in our election by a foreign government. DNC interim chair Donna Brazile urgently reached out — twice — to RNC chair, and Trump's incoming Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, asking him in a letter to join her in condemning the attacks. He declined.
Perhaps because the Republican Party has had its own vendetta against Hillary Clinton for three decades, and they were willing to compromise the very foundation of our democracy if it meant allowing Putin do something they could not accomplish on a level playing field: Stop her.
And they did not merely just passively allow it. To the contrary, at the last press conference he gave, in July, Trump invited the Russians to hack the State Department: "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
Incredibly, after he publicly invited Russian hacking, Trump is now (dishonestly) accusing the White House of failing to act until after the election.
If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016
The White House did act before the election: "Trying to avoid the appearance of partisanship if he warned the public himself, President Obama instead briefed a bipartisan group of senators, including [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, in the hope they would issue a joint statement 'urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.'"
McConnell refused to issue a statement, and further threatened that he would “consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”
Trump certainly knew about the interference himself, and had his own chance to act, given that Clinton raised the issue during a debate with him. He chose to greet her dire warning by saying, "She doesn't like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way." Then, as now, Trump believes the Democrats only care about foreign interference in U.S. democracy because of sour grapes.
It is a breathtaking indifference to one of the gravest threats to our nation. It is also another bit of pointed projection from Trump, who, as noted by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, appears to have somehow known about the intereference himself, long before the intelligence disclosures in October referenced by Clinton and Brazile, yet he chose to say nothing. Nothing condemning it, anyway.
“There’s ample evidence that was known long before the election and in most cases long before October about the Trump campaign and Russia — everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent,” Earnest told reporters. “It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent’s campaign.”
“That’s why he was encouraging them to keep doing it,” Earnest continued, referring to the then-GOP presidential candidate’s invitation during a late-July news conference for Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails. At the time, Trump added that Russia would “probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Now, as calls mount, from Democrats and the media, for independent, bipartisan investigations into this unprecedented intrusion in our election, Republicans largely rebuff such requests, suggesting that closed, partisan committee investigations will suffice.
They will not.
Meanwhile, the President-elect calls the intelligence community's assessment "ridiculous," says he will replace the intelligence community with "his own people," and picks to serve as his Secretary of State a man with strong ties to Putin.
The New York Times editors write:
Mr. Trump’s reaction to the C.I.A.’s findings leaves him isolated, and underscores his dangerous unfamiliarity with the role of intelligence in maintaining national security. There could be no more “useful idiot,” to use Lenin’s term of art, than an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power. Or maybe it’s as Mr. Trump says: He’s “a smart person,” and avoids presidential intelligence briefings because they repeat what he already knows. If so, what else does he know about Russia that the intelligence agencies don’t?
It is profoundly troubling to consider what Trump might know about Russia, but it is even more troubling to contemplate how little he seems to care about the United States, as he is a month away from becoming its president.
Throughout the entirety of the campaign, he bellowed about how he would make "the best deals" for America, but he has not yet been inaugurated and he has already sold us out.