As the Washington Post — and every other major news outlet — reported late Friday:
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“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.”
The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.
The Obama White House reportedly informed a small group of Congressional leaders — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — about these concerns in September. You can probably guess how President-elect Donald Trump responded to the news on Friday, but his “official response” was still a bit jarring. From CNN:
In a stunning response to widening claims of a Russian espionage operation targeting the presidential race, Trump’s camp risked an early feud with the Intelligence community on which he will rely for top secret assessments of the greatest threats facing the United States.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the transition said in a terse, unsigned statement.
“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 sharp pushback to revelations in The Washington Post, which followed an earlier CNN report on alleged Russian interference in the election, represented a startling rebuke from an incoming White House to the CIA.
The big question, of course, is “now what?” Congressional Republicans really have no good options here, and may just end up repeating Moscow’s line to demonstrate proof of chicanery in order to buy some time.
“The silence from Wikileaks and others since election day has been deafening. That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core.” — Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is calling for a full investigation, though that won’t take place until next year because Congress has already adjourned for 2016. As Politico explains:
“Senate Democrats will join with our Republican colleagues next year to demand a congressional investigation and hearings to get to the bottom of this. It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation,” Schumer said.
Republicans have been largely mum on the matter and many declined comment on Friday night as the Senate took its final votes of the year. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who intends to probe the matter next year, said that everybody he knows says “that the Russians have interfered with this election.”
There’s little chance that this won’t end up as a largely partisan battle, but one way or the other, Americans need to know if another country intentionally subverted our election process.