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16th of July 2018

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Senate Intelligence committee backs finding that Russia tried to help Donald Trump

The U.S. intelligence community’s initial assessment that Russia secretly tried to interfere with the 2016 election to boost Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton was “well-supported,” the Senate Intelligence Committee said in an unclassified report.

Congress’ leading probe into the Russian meddling issue released a summary of its initial findings on Tuesday, which concluded that the “overall judgments” made by the country’s leading intelligence agencies in January 2017 “were well-supported and the tradecraft was strong.”

The committee’s investigation also found “that the Russian cyber operations were more extensive than the hack of the Democratic National Committee and continued well through the 2016 election.”

“The committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” chairman Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, said in a statement.

Sen. Mark Warner, the panel’s top Democrat, concurred.

“As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously reaffirmed, the ICA findings were accurate and on-point,” the Virginian said. “The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.”

The Senate panel, which has investigated the issue for almost 18 months, disagreed with findings from the House Intelligence Committee probe, which ended its investigation into the issue this spring with the conclusion that Kremlin operatives intended to spread discord across the U.S. electorate, but not specifically help Mr. Trump.

The January 2017 ICA was considered significant because never before had the CIA, National Security Agency and FBI — the assessment’s joint authors — asserted that a foreign government interfered so extensively in a U.S. election to help one candidate and discredit another.

Ever since its release, Mr. Trump has dismissed the 15-page report’s findings and pointed to it as evidence that an “American deep state” — consisting of establishment Washington figures and agencies — has conspired to undermine his presidency with a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Russian officials have also repeatedly denied any meddling in the 2016 election, which U.S. officials say included cyber operations, the planting of false news stories and the use of social media “trolls” orchestrated by the Kremlin.

In May, Mr. Burr and Mr. Warner revealed similar conclusions after a closed-door hearing on the issue with the top Obama administration officials who authorized the release of the ICA report made public just two weeks before Mr. Trump took office in January 2017.

Many leading Republicans maintain that the entire Russian-meddling narrative was an invention pushed by the Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton campaign to smear Mr. Trump and his closest advisers in the heat of a tightening presidential race.

More findings to come soon

On Tuesday, the Senate probe also announced it soon plans to release additional reports about other aspects of its investigation, including whether members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government.

It will also address the anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which was paid for the Democratic Party and contained many of the unverified allegations about ties between Mr. Trump and the Kremlin that came to shape the overall Russian election meddling narrative.

Tuesday’s summary report noted that “all individuals the committee interviewed verified that the dossier did not in any way inform the analysis in the ICA — including the key findings — because it was unverified information and had not been disseminated as serialized intelligence reporting.”

The report also noted that while the ICA briefly discussed Kremlin-supported efforts to manipulate U.S. social media outlets and interfere in the 2016 election, the committee investigators found a “far more extensive Russian effort.”

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