U.S. intelligence officials now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
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.
Ultimately, the CIA has assessed, the Russian government wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI and other agencies don’t fully endorse that view, but few officials would dispute that the Russian operation was intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy by leaking embarrassing emails about Democrats.
. . . .
Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term “high confidence” implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.
Meanwhile, Putin’s popularity is on the rise with Republicans . . . and bigly. Republicans’ net favorability towards Putin was -66% in July 2014. In December 2016, it is now . . . -10%.
Net favorability of Putin:
July 2014: -54
Dec 2016: -62
July 2014: -66
Dec 2016: -10
— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) December 14, 2016
That’s a 56-point gain amongst Republicans. Meanwhile, Putin has maintained about the same (un)favorable rating from Democrats: -54% in July 2014, compared to -62% today.
What explains this? Partisan politics. I can hardly improve on what Allahpundit at Hot Air had to say about the poll results:
Republican opinion on Putin seems to have moved not because Trump is pro-Russia or because there’s suddenly an opportunity for better relations with Moscow. It moved because Russia interfered in the election to the Democrats’ detriment, whether that was the core motive or not. That’s the point we’ve reached in partisan polarization, apparently. Want better relations with the U.S.? Then do what you can, legal or not, to make the eventual winning party’s path to electoral victory easier.
To put that another way, the surge in favorability among Republicans for a Russian fascist and kleptocrat who’s used anti-American propaganda relentlessly to consolidate power at home may be a more or less straightforward byproduct of partisan politics.
Americans’ assessment: Vladimir Putin may have imprisoned and even murdered political opponents, punished and even killed journalists, and invaded Crimea . . . but at least he helped elect Donald Trump. Two big thumbs up!