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Did Donald trump Hillary with Russian help? CIA seems to think so

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:41 IST

USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. The interference helped elect Republican Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. The Washington Post reports that the CIA concluded a 'secret assessment'. It's something that was highly suspected but never stated in the open by the intelligence community. Washington Post cited officials that were briefed on the matter.

The CIA had shared this latest assessment with "key senators" in a closed-door briefing. This took place last week on Capitol Hill. The agency officials had citing intelligence gathered from multiple sources.

Individuals - described by actors - with connections to the Russian government have been identified by intelligence agencies. These individuals provided WikiLeaks (an international organisation publishing secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources) with thousands of emails that were hacked from he Democratic National Committee, and others. Some of these included Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. Some of these officials were a mere step removed from the Russian government. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied having any links with Russia. He said, in a television interview, that the source wasn't the Russian government.

One of the officials described this conclusion as "the consensus view".

According to a New York Times report, Russians had also hacked into the Republican National Committee's computer systems but did not release the information they got from the Republican networks. A senior government official, who was briefed on an FBI investigation, said that the attempts to penetrate the Republican committee's systems were unsuccessful. No one knows the number of files stole from the Republican committee. The attack had taken place in the spring.

In September, American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were investigating a "broad covert Russian operation" to undermine the US electoral system and to "sow public distrust". Now we know that it went one step further.

The question this raises is whether or not Trump would have won without Russian intervention.

"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. "That's the consensus view."

For months, the Obama administration debated over how to respond to various allegations of Russian intrusion. Some White House officials were concerned abut how the response would be correlated with escalating tensions and also linked to the boosting of Clinton's campaign. Officials also were dealing with the long-standing problem of collecting 'reliable information' on Vladimir Putin and his aides.

One can clearly connect the dots, if the White House isn't. The Russian intervention calls not question the legitimacy of Trump's 'surprising' win.

Mitch McConnel, senate majority leader, back in September, voiced his skepticism during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, about the evidence available.

In October, the intelligence community finally accused Moscow 'officially' of interfering in the election.

This past Friday

After the elections though, that changed. US president Barack Obama, ordered an inquiry into all "cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle". In fact, seven Democratic senators had last week asked Obama to declassify all the available details about the hacking.

Obama wants this "lessons learned" report before 20 January, the day of Trump's inauguration. "The review will be led by James Clapper, the outgoing director of national intelligence, officials said".

As for Trump, his team on Friday dismissed all the findings. "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again,' " the statement read. During the run up to the elections, Trump had consistently dismissed the findings about the Russian hacking.

"I don't believe they interfered..." Trump told Time magazine this week. "It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey." Furthermore, Trump's transition team, in a statement said, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction".

The Democrats want a bi-partisan commission, something similar to the 9/11 Commission to look into the issue but until this week, they'd not go much support from congressional Republicans.

"But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., voiced support for a probe on Wednesday, and now Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., says he is working with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., on a wide-ranging Senate probe, as The Post's Karoun Demirjian reported Thursday," Aaron Blake wrote in the Chicago Tribune.

Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell had introduced a bill on Wednesday to create an independent commission to investigate Russian meddling.

"This commission will do a bipartisan, independent, and robust review of Russia's efforts to influence our election and attack our nation's democracy, and it will make specific recommendations for the future," Cummings told reporters Wednesday afternoon. "We must preserve the integrity of our democracy and Americans' trust in our electoral system."

"I'm going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia. I think they're one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage," Graham was quoted as saying. "I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally to pay the price."

It's still to be seen whether or not any of the officials will resign/be indicted and it's yet to be seen that if proven, what it means for the future of Donald Trump. Only time will tell.

First published: 10 December 2016, 7:44 IST