In a rebuke of President Donald Trump, a bipartisan group of senators agree with a U.S. intelligence assessment that Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 elections including through cyberattacks and disinformation. The findings bolster earlier reports from the intelligence community, which the president and some Republican lawmakers have disputed in recent months.
Senate Intelligence Committee members announced in the report they agreed with a 2017 assessment that Moscow preferred Trump during the 2016 presidential elections. The report also concurred with the findings that the influence campaign was personally approved by Putin, and Russian intelligence services conducted cyber operations during the 2016 presidential election cycle that targeted think tanks, lobbying groups and the Democratic National Committee.
The senators also provided key updates to the original 2017 intelligence assessment. The committee said it has learned more about Russian attempts to infiltrate state election infrastructure. Members also said the investigation has exposed a “far more extensive Russian effort to manipulate social media outlets to sow discord.”
Allies of Trump hoping the investigation might go away may be disappointed by the new report. More information regarding Russia’s activities during U.S. elections is coming, said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who serves as chairman of the committee.
“The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary [Hillary] Clinton and to help Donald Trump,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
In January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a shocking report detailing how the Russian government sought to sway the 2016 presidential elections. The report was released before Trump took office. The intelligence community assessment said that the Russian government blended traditional cyber operations with a campaign of disinformation. The 2017 assessment did not comment on the effectiveness of the Russian campaign or whether it swayed the outcome of the election.
As recently as last week, Trump cast doubt on Moscow’s interference campaign, tweeting June 28, “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”
Justin Lynch is the Associate Editor at Fifth Domain. He has written for the New Yorker, the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, the Atlantic, and others. Follow him on Twitter @just1nlynch.