For months, evidence has mounted that the Russian government used its hacking prowess to interfere with the US presidential election, stealing emails from Democrats and leaking them via WikiLeaks. The Obama administration formally accused Russia of hacking the Democrats two months ago.
Now the CIA is going even further, according to reports from the Washington Post and the New York Times. In a “closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week,” intelligence officials told senators that “it was now ‘quite clear’ that electing Trump was Russia’s goal.”
The reason, according to the Times and Post summaries of the CIA’s reasoning, is that the Russians appear to have also hacked computer systems belonging to the Republican Party. But whereas the Democrats’ emails found their way to WikiLeaks, Republican emails stayed under wraps.
If these reports are correct, it would be powerful evidence that the Russians weren’t just trying to sow general chaos — they were specifically trying to make Donald Trump rather than Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States. And they got their wish.
The Washington Post also reports that doubts from Republican leaders in Congress dissuaded the Obama administration from responding more forcefully to the alleged Russian attacks. In mid-September, intelligence officials organized a classified briefing with senior congressional leaders and laid out the evidence of Russian hacking and the danger that Russia could try to interfere with voting systems on Election Day itself. They hoped the meeting would lead to a bipartisan statement condemning Russian interference with US elections.
But according to the Post, not all Republican leaders were convinced. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics,” the Post reports. “Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election.”
In statements to the newspapers, the Trump transition team dismissed the reports. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the statement said. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
For what it’s worth, the claim about the Electoral College is untrue. Donald Trump got 57 percent of Electoral College votes. According to a list compiled by Wikipedia, only 12 out of 57 presidential elections have been won with a smaller share of electoral college votes.