The drama of an already contentious election just reached new heights: On Friday, the CIA determined that Russia influenced the 2016 election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump, according to the Washington Post.
But one of the nation’s other key intelligence agencies is far less certain.
“Russia moved deliberately to help elect Donald Trump as president of the United States — not just to undermine the U.S. political process more generally,” the paper reported. It cited a “secret assessment” and officials familiar with the matter.
Meanwhile, in an intelligence briefing last week, a senior FBI official had a different assessment: The Russians were definitely meddling with the DNC — but why is anyone’s guess.
“There’s no question that [the Russians’] efforts went one way, but it’s not clear that they have a specific goal or mix of related goals,” said one U.S. official, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Trump himself accused the system of being rigged against him and cried voter fraud, both before and after his victory, and now it appears as though his concerns were founded. The Post cited CIA officials who reportedly identified individuals working with or for the Russian government who supplied WikiLeaks with the now infamous emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and top Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta.
“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,” the Post quoted a senior U.S. official as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”
Given the FBI’s more measured tone, it’s unclear how solid that consensus is.
This is not the first time Russia has been implicated in a cyberattack against the U.S. The DNC hack that took place over the summer was officially attributed to Vladimir Putin’s government, and the latest reports add further evidence that Trump was Russia’s pick for American head of state.
During his campaign, Trump often spoke of his admiration for Russia and its president, a sharp departure from the current administration’s tone towards the foreign government. And still, Trump remains defiant that any interference in the election could have come from Russian forces.
“I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump said in his interview with Time, who recently named him Person of the Year. “That became a laughing point — not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’”
He concluded, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
That’s not the conclusion drawn by the CIA, however.
Updated 12/11/2016 by Jeremy Kaplan: Added information on FBI report and updates throughout.