In an unprecedented move, the FBI squarely blamed Russian intelligence services on Thursday for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, releasing the most definitive report yet on the issue, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in a broad hacking campaign.
According to the Bureau, Vladimir Putin took a fearful risk. If the Electoral College had taken a slightly different bounce on November 8, Putin would now be facing an enraged President-elect Hillary Clinton. Putin had every reason to expect that he probably would end up facing a President Clinton. Yet he took the gamble anyway, apparently doing something none of his Soviet predecessors had ever dared to do: mount a clandestine espionage and disinformation campaign on behalf of one candidate for U.S. president who is easy to manipulate: Donald Trump.
At the hight of campaign, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the FSB, emailed a malicious link to more than 1,000 recipients, including U.S. government targets with the intent to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a 13-page report co-authored with the Department of Homeland Security.
It’s hard to imagine a crisis of presidential legitimacy more extreme than that.
The FBI issued its report on the same day that President Barack Obama announced a series of retaliatory measures, including the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence operatives and the sanctioning of the Russian Federation, according to The Huffington Post.
According to the FBI report, among the groups compromised by the Russian hacks was the Democratic National Committee, which was again infiltrated in early 2016 by another Russian agency, the military GRU.
Some senior Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have expressed outrage at what they called Russian interference in America’s elections, diverging from their own party’s president-elect. The allegations and sanctions mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.
Meantime, Trump has blasted the U.S. intelligence report and questioned whether Russia was truly at fault and told the Democrats to get over it.
“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a statement on Thursday.
Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, tapped people seen as friendly to Moscow for administration posts and rejected assessments by intelligence agencies on the hacking.
How Trump Made Russia’s Hacking More Effective:
The content of the Russian-hacked emails was actually remarkably unexplosive. Probably the biggest news was that Hillary Clinton had expressed herself in favor of a hemispheric common market in speeches to Wall Street executives. But it was the president-elect’s hyperbolic characterizations of the pilfered material that turned routine documents into the stuff of scandal.
The president-elect of the United States owes his office in considerable part to illegal clandestine activities in his favor conducted by a hostile, foreign spy service. It’s hard to imagine a crisis of presidential legitimacy more extreme than that.
Obama pledged today that before he leaves office, the American people will learn more fully how the Russians did it.
This will be important to know.