This is a new turn in the story of Russian interference in the last election. On Friday, political appointees within the CIA leaked a “consensus opinion” that claimed Russia had interfered with the express goal of electing Donald Trump. You can believe that Russia did muck about in our election (and I do) without buying that they had any larger goal than to discredit the electoral process. Because one has to ask how does anyone know what the intent was unless they were in the room when the Russians made their decision.
As it turns out, the CIA’s assessment sort of stunned their bosses as well.
The overseers of the U.S. intelligence community have not embraced a CIA assessment that Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Republican President-elect Donald Trump win the 2016 election, three American officials said on Monday.
While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA’s analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named.
“ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent,” said one of the three U.S. officials. “Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”
The CIA conclusion was a “judgment based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked,” one of the three officials said on Monday.
“(It was) a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment,” the official added.
In fact, the conclusion that both sides were hacked is only barely true. The DNC was hacked. John Podesta and some other Democrats were hacked. The FBI says the RNC was not hacked and a small number of GOP operatives were hacked. None of this means more than the Russians got lucky and that maybe the GOP operatives had nothing interesting in their email. We know for a fact that John Podesta was hacked because he followed the advice of the guys who were running Hillary Clinton’s private server. (See my posts here and here.)
Republican Senator John McCain said on Monday there was “no information” that Russian hacking of American political organizations was aimed at swaying the outcome of the election.
“It’s obvious that the Russians hacked into our campaigns,” McCain said. “But there is no information that they were intending to affect the outcome of our election and that’s why we need a congressional investigation,” he told Reuters.
And McConnell has announced that just such an investigation will take place under the aegis of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And the CIA has now provoked the House Intelligence Committee to take a hard look at the CIA’s assessment. Yesterday, committee chairman David Nunes sent a rather harsh letter to Clapper basically sayint “WTF, I mean WT f***ing F.”
Over the past several months, the Committee has received multiple briefings and assessments from the IC on the alleged Russian activities and cyber threats. On November 17, 2016, you told the Committee during an open hearing that the IC lacked strong evidence connecting Russian govemment cyber-attacks and WikiLeaks disclosures, testifying that far “as the WikiLeaks connection, the evidence there is not as strong, and we don’t have good insight into the sequencing of the releases or when the data may have been provided.” According to new press reports, this is no longer the CIA,s position.
In light ofthe Committee’s robust oversight efforts on these issues, I was dismayed that we did not learn earlier, from you directly, about the reported conflicting assessments and the CIA’s reported revision of information previously conveyed to this Committee. The Committee therefore has an urgent need to accurately understand the current IC assessment of alleged Russian cyber-activities relating to the election, and any disagreements among IC components.
This is more than a “thin reed.” This is a transparent political attack by the CIA upon the incoming administration in an attempt to discredit Trump’s election and weaken him from Day One. This was nothing short of a declaration of war by the CIA upon the Trump administration.