On the world stage, President Trump has refused to acknowledge what the nation's top intelligence officials say is a fact: Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election in an unprecedented way.
“I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries. I won’t be specific,” Trump said Thursday at a news conference in Warsaw. Trump was visiting the Polish capital on his way to the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg.
U.S. intelligence officials from both the Obama and Trump administrations disagree completely with the president. Many have also warned that sowing doubt about Russia's moves plays right into Russia's playbook to undermine U.S. democracy.
Here's a rundown of the facts about Russia's interference in the presidential campaign as people with extraordinary access to the nation's secrets know them. (Trump administration officials are starred; my emphasis is added in bold.)
1. “In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyber attacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election. That is a fact, plain and simple.” — former Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson, testifying to the House Intelligence Committee on June 21. (He added that he did not think that votes cast “were altered or suppressed in some way” by Russia.)
*2. “It's pretty clear about what took place here, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy. This was an aggressive action taken by the senior leadership of Russia.” — CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in addressing the Senate Intelligence Committee during his January confirmation hearing.
*3. “I have no doubt that the discourse that's been taking place is something that Vladimir Putin would look at and say, 'Wow. That was among the objectives that I had, to sow doubt among the American political community, to — to suggest somehow that American democracy was not unique.'
… It shouldn't surprise any of any of us at all that the leadership inside of Russia views this as something that might well redound to their benefit.” — Pompeo, again at his confirmation hearing.
*4. “There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that.
It is a high-confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community, and — and the members of this committee have — have seen the intelligence. It's not a close call. That happened. That's about as un-fake as you can possibly get.” — former FBI director James B. Comey at a June 8 Senate hearing.
*5. “We continue to see this similar activity that we identified and highlighted in the January report. Those trends continue. Much of that activity continues.” — Adm. Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, at a June 7 Senate hearing. He was referring to a January report signed off by major intelligence agencies that found that Russia tried to sabotage the U.S. election on an order from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
6. “I was convinced in the summer that the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive, they had — it was a multifaceted effort and I wanted to make sure that we were able to expose as much of that as possible. … Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency, and to help President Trump's election chances.” — former CIA director John Brennan, during a May 23 House Intelligence Committee hearing.
7. “Now the Russians are watching very carefully what's going on in Washington right now, and they will try to exploit it for their own purposes and to see whether not they can further, I think, seed partisan animosity here in Washington and try to roil the waters — the political waters here. And so even though the election is over, I think Mr. Putin and Russian intelligence services are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment.” — Brennan, at the same hearing.
8. “[T]he Russian government pursued a multifaceted influence campaign in the run-up to the election, including aggressive use of cyber capabilities.” — James R. Clapper Jr., former director of national intelligence, during a May 8 hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. He went on to explain:
The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets. Russia also collected on certain Republican Party- affiliated targets, but did not release any Republican-related data. The Intelligence Community Assessment concluded first that President Putin directed and influenced campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process. Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton, and third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump. These conclusions were reached based on the richness of the information gathered and analyzed and were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me.