A Senate panel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election released Tuesday a written summary of its determination that the U.S. intelligence community correctly concluded Moscow sought to help Donald Trump win.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report affirms conclusions that its members first announced in May. It stands in sharp contrast with a parallel investigation by the House Intelligence Committee, whose Republican members questioned the intelligence community’s tradecraft in concluding the Kremlin aimed to help Trump.
The Senate panel called the overall assessment a “sound intelligence product,” saying evidence presented by the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency supported their collective conclusion that the Russian government had “developed a clear preference for Trump” over his opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton. Where the agencies disagreed, the Senate panel found those differences were “reasonable.”
The intelligence community determined that the Kremlin intended to “denigrate” and “harm” Clinton, and “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” while helping Trump. The committee’s report backs that conclusion. It also supports the agencies’ findings about Russia’s tactics, which included cyberattacks and intelligence collection “against the U.S. primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups they viewed as likely to shape future U.S. policies.”
The Senate panel’s assessment is not all glowing: The committee found the agencies’ assessment of Russia’s propaganda operation was outdated, relying on data from 2012 — something the Senate panel called a “shortcoming.” Senators also criticized the intelligence community’s report for not providing more comprehensive historical context, to put Russia’s 2016 operation into better perspective.
But the panel stressed that intelligence analysts were under “no politically motivated pressure to reach any conclusions,” and that their conclusions had been prescient as well as accurate, noting that “the Committee’s investigation has exposed a far more extensive Russian effort to manipulate social media outlets to sow discord and to interfere in the 2016 election and American society” than the officials who drafted the assessment realized at the time they were writing it.
This report is the second of several that are expected from the committee as it completes its probe of Russia’s activities during the 2016 election. The panel has already released similar findings and recommendations for ensuring better election security; it is also expected to release an assessment of the Obama administration’s conduct related to the Russian threat and another document examining the role social media played in Russia’s influence operations.
A final report is expected to address, among other things, questions of whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. The president has vehemently denied those allegations.
The committee’s report indicates lawmakers also intend to address questions about an explosive “dossier” of allegations about Trump’s alleged Russia ties. The document, which was compiled by a British ex-spy, did not inform the intelligence community’s assessment “in any way,” the Senate committee found.