"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals 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. We have high confidence in these judgments..."
We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
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.”
“Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”
Donald Trump - The Manchurian Candidate?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was called “Crossfire Hurricane.” The name refers to the Rolling Stones lyric “I was born in a crossfire hurricane,” from the 1968 hit “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested 19 July 2018 that Russian efforts may have reached into the White House. “I’ve been trying my best to give the president the benefit of the doubt and always expressed potential other theories as to why he behaves as he does with respect to Russia generally and Putin specifically,” Clapper told CNN when asked about Trump’s refusal to back the findings of the U.S. intelligence community during his joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki. “But more and more I come to a conclusion after the Helsinki performance and since, that I really do wonder if the Russians have something on him,” Clapper said.
There have also been persistent rumors that some members of Congress could also be doing Russia’s bidding a notion reinforced by Bill Browder, the chief executive officer of Hermitage Capital and a driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to withhold visas and freeze financial assets of Russian officials thought to be corrupt or human rights abusers. “There's one member of the U.S. Congress who I believe is on the payroll of Russia — it’s a Republican Congressmen from Orange County [California] named Dana Rohrabacher who is running around trying to overturn the Magnitsky Act,” Browder said 19 July 2018 at the Aspen Security Forum. “I don’t have the bank transfers to prove it, but I believe that that’s the case,” Browder said when he was pressed on the accusation, citing Rohrabacher’s behavior.
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) - one of his closest allies in Congress — told fellow GOP leaders: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. This was according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation. Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.” Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. ... This is how we know we’re a real family here.”
US intelligence accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers and leaking information compromising former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to WikiLeaks prior to US presidential elections in an effort to boost Trump's chances of victory. Russia repeatedly denied the accusations of US intelligence of attempts to influence the elections in the United States, and the Russian president's press secretary Dmitry Peskov called them "absolutely unsubstantiated." Maxine Waters, Member of the House of Representatives from the Democratic Party, believes that the US missile attack on Syria was aimed at diverting attention from US President Donald Trump's plans to lift sanctions against Russia. During a rally in Washington, she claimed that the situation in Syria is just a "phony tension between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, all being hyped up by the White House, still trying to distract us," the politician said 15 April 2017. According to Waters, the escalation of the tension between Moscow and Washington due to the situation in Syria is just a spectacle. From her point of view, Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are "tied at the hip" and the ultimate goal of fueling the "tension" is the withdrawal of sanctions against Russia.
Starting in 2015, Russia launched an unprecedented and multifaceted campaign to undermine American elections. The Kremlin, according to former Director of National Intelligence Clapper, wanted to "undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process". This was and remains the unanimous verdict of the intelligence community. As part of this effort, Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Russia's military intelligence unit, the GRU, then released those emails to the public in increments which were timed to cause turmoil in the American electorate.
Russia paid more than 1,000 people -- human trolls -- to work out of a facility in Saint Petersburg, Russia. These trolls spent their waking hours creating anti-Clinton fake news reports and disseminating these stories in key states and districts. Russia also used thousands of botnets to echo and amplify these fake news stories. Russia also targeted the election boards of nearly half the states in the country, successfully infiltrating at least four voter registration databases and gaining access to hundreds of thousands of voter records.
US Representative John Lewis said 15 January 2017 "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president... I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected." House Democrat Jared Huffman of California said Trump is “so thin-skinned and classless, and so utterly incapable of growing up. As our President, he is going to bring disgrace, chaos, controversy and conflict unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”
General James Mattis, defense secretary nominee, testified Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to divide Nato nations. “I think right now the most important thing is that we recognise the reality of what we deal with with Mr Putin,” he told the Armed Services Committee.... And we recognise that he is trying to break the North Atlantic Alliance and that we take the steps… to defend ourselves where we must."
"Happy New Year to all," Trump wrote 31 December 2016, "including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do. Love!"
"Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!" Trump wrote 26 February 2017 on Twitter.
The book "The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Putin" was published in the United States in June 2017. The book was published by Skyhorse Publishing. The author, Dan Kovalik, is a US journalist, human, labor rights lawyer and peace activist, as well as Adjunct Professor of Law at the Pitt Law faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. Kovalik has described every President of the United States that followed World War II as a "War Criminal".
According to Kovalik, accusations of Russia's "meddling in US elections" should be viewed in the broad context of Russian-US relations. Kovalik criticized the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and wrote that the United States subsequently interfered in Russia's internal affairs, violated promises and tried to humiliate Moscow. The current talks about "Russian hackers" is an attempt to make Moscow a "scapegoat," which may lead to nothing else than a new dangerous confrontation with Russia, the book's author said.
"I supported detente [when Russia was the Soviet Union] and I support detente now. I see Russia as a potential ally and friend. I don’t see Russia as a threat. I don’t support this Russia bashing that’s happening in the United States, which is largely been done for political gain by the Democrats. I’m not a [US President Donald] Trump supporter, I didn’t vote for Trump, I’m liberal-to-left, actually. But I’m still 'right is right' and 'wrong is wrong', and I don’t support the Democrats using this issue as a bludgeon against Trump, because it’s going to lead or could lead to very serious consequences … there are people pushing for military confrontation [with Russia]," Kovalik said in an interview.
Accusations against Russia are questionable for a number of reasons — outdated technology of the alleged hacking, the presence of CIA's technologies allowing them to hack the computer and to make it look like someone else has done it, as well as the Democrats' refusal to give the FBI access to the hacked servers, Kovalik explained, adding that he suspected that hacking might not have happened at all.
"What is shaping up to be a new McCarthy period, in which people are accused of being dupes for Russia for simply questioning the prevailing anti-Russian discourse, is obviously different from the old one, but with essentially the same intention and effect – to curb dissent, particularly with regard to US foreign policy, which, by any rational measure, is incredibly destructive for our country and the world at large," Kovalik wrote in his book.
The Democratic National Committee on 20 April 2018 sued President Donald Trump's campaign, Trump's son, his son-in-law, the Russian Federation and Wikileaks, saying they conspired to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election by breaking into DNC computers and stealing tens of thousands of emails and documents. "The conspiracy constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery: the campaign of the presidential nominee of a major party in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency," the lawsuit said. "And, in carrying out this effort, defendants' conspiracy to disseminate documents stolen from the DNC in violation of the laws of the United States as well as the laws of the state of Virginia and the District of Columbia. Under the laws of this nation, Russia and its co-conspirators must answer for these actions."
Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., stated 24 May 2018 : " given the massive effort the Russians made, and the number of citizens that they touched, and the variety and multi-dimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion … and given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states, to me it exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election. And it’s my belief they actually turned it."
As Rachel Maddow put it, “the director of national intelligence for the last seven years” has concluded “that the current president of the United States was only installed in office because of a successful Russian intelligence operation,” raising obvious questions about his legitimacy.
But Conrad Black, author of the book "Donald J. Trump, A President Like No Other" wrote "It is now clear that Russian attempts at interference in the 2016 election, though somewhat outrageous, were ineffectual, unconnected with any particular party, a small effort given what a country of Russia's resources and taste for political skullduggery and chicanery is capable of, and minor compared with the influence many countries, including the United States, have sometimes exercised in the elections of other countries. No serious person could find anything in the conduct of the president that could be construed as obstruction of justice..."
In an august 2018 interview with non-commercial news program Democracy Now, luminary Noam Chomsky criticized the "overwhelming concern" in the media over alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election, claiming that Israel's impact on the US has been far bigger. "Whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly, and with enormous support," he said, referring to Israel.
The noted linguist and philosopher mentioned Israeli PM Netanyahu's controversial address to US Congress in 2015, in which he spoke about the threat of the Iran nuclear deal. "Did Putin come to give an address to the joint sessions of Congress trying to-calling on them to reverse U.S. policy, without even informing the president?" he quizzed. The American thinker went on to say that "taking a look at Russian hacking is absolutely the wrong place to look," calling it an "extremely marginal question."
Chomsky added that Donald Trump is "perfectly right when he says we should have better relations with Russia." Moreover, Russia, he believes, should refuse to deal with the US because the latter had carried out what he called "the worst crime of the century," referring to the Iraq war, which is "much worse than anything Russia has done."
The interview came at a time when the FBI is probing alleged Russia meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Moscow has been accused of hacking Hillary Clinton's emails in a bid to sway votes in favor of rival candidate Donald Trump. Both Russia and Trump have repeatedly denied the allegations, claiming that no evidence of collusion has been provided so far.
In August 2018 Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28. Microsoft had used this approach 12 times in two years to shut down 84 fake websites associated with this group. As a special master appointed by a federal judge concluded in the recent court order obtained by DCU, there is “good cause” to believe that Strontium is “likely to continue” its conduct.
One appears to mimic the domain of the International Republican Institute, which promotes democratic principles and is led by a notable board of directors, including six Republican senators and a leading senatorial candidate. Another is similar to the domain used by the Hudson Institute, which hosts prominent discussions on topics including cybersecurity, among other important activities.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the claims given in the report were groundless. "We do not know what kind of hackers they are referring to, we do not know what the impact on the elections is. We see that the United States confirms that there was no influence on the elections… We do not understand what are the grounds for this, what is Fancy bear, what Russian military intelligence has to do with it, what is the basis for these accusations, rather serious ones, therefore they seem groundless," Peskov told reporters.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in its turn, expressed regret over allegations by Microsoft of attempts by Russian government-linked hackers to launch attacks on US legislative bodies and think tanks ahead of November's congressional elections. "It is regrettable that a large international company, which has been actively and successfully working on the Russian market for a long time, has to participate in the 'witch hunt' that swept Washington. Apparently, it is done to demonstrate its loyalty. This is their choice. We will have to draw the necessary conclusions," the ministry said in a statement.
In 1787, as the American constitutional convention reached its conclusion in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was asked as he departed Independence Hall what type of government the delegates had created. He famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
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