Declassified: Russian Campaign to Undermine Faith in Democratic Process, Harm Hillary Clinton

by Mark Sumner –

The declassified version of the intelligence report on Russian activities related to the 2016 election was made available to the public on Friday. At about half the length of the full report, it’s clear the public isn’t seeing all the evidence, or all the conclusions, but what is there points a finger straight at Putin.

We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. 

For those who would be satisfied with nothing less than Putin’s digital fingerprint all over DNC servers, or a nice “we done it” note, this report isn’t going to clear the 110% proof hurdle. The first three pages are devoted to explaining why the details of what makes the intelligence community so certain of their conclusions are not always on display. The public report seeks to provide some protection for both sources and processes of America’s cyber capabilities. That lack of clear forensic information makes it possible for those who, like Trump, have denied the results of previous analysis to keep right on denying.

While the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.

For those willing to look past the lack of a step by step code walk-through, what the report indicates is nothing less than chilling. This wasn’t just an attack on Clinton, but an assault on the idea of democracy.

In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime. 

Donald Trump made a point in his own response to the report to say that the actions of Russia (or China, or whoever) had

absolutely no effect on the outcome.

However, that’s not a result that can be gleaned from the report. In fact, a good portion of the report focuses on the hacking, not as a stand-alone event, but as part of a broader Russian propaganda effort meant to undermine Hillary Clinton both as a candidate and a potential president. Russia wasn’t just counting on distributing documents through WikiLeaks as a means of suppressing Clinton’s vote, they launched a campaign on all fronts.

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” 

It was a kitchen sink approach, both overt and covert, with everything possible thrown out to decrease Clinton’s appeal relative to Trump. That included a not-so-small army of posters assailing Clinton on Facebook and other social media, and creating fake news on both new and existing sites.

Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. …

In promoting Trump, Russia has decided that he’s similar to some of their past favorites—leaders who put their business concerns over the needs of their nation.

Putin has had many positive experiences working with Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

As for the DNC hacks themselves, there is no lack of directness.

We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks. 

On the outcome of the election, the report simply states that analysis of Russia’s effectiveness through these actions was not part of the assessment. That’s a long way from Trump’s claim that there was “no effect.”

In fact, since Trump himself repeatedly used WikiLeaks as a source, referring to it not just once, but literally hundreds of times in speeches and rallies, it’s hard to believe that he felt the charges he leveled based on that information had “no effect.” In an election where the results were determined by less than a 1% swing in a handful of states, the material sourced out of Russia was certainly given heavy enough coverage to have made a critical difference.

Trump’s praise for Wikileaks, and his recent re-tweets of Julian Assange as a credible source, is quite at odds with his statements in the past.

Donald Trump called WikiLeaks “disgraceful” and suggested there be a “death penalty” for their actions during a 2010 interview.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos