Russia’s original hacking intent had nothing to do with President-elect Donald Trump, according to intelligence officials who detailed their assessment in a report released Friday.
The intel chiefs are highly confident the core motivations behind the extensive Russian campaign were to undermine the integrity of the election, denigrate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and undermine her potential presidency. Although the report states Russia developed a “preference” for Trump late in the campaign, it’s clear they believe the underlying goal was always to hurt Clinton.
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the report states. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” (RELATED: Intel Report Destroys Democrat Talking Point On Leaked Emails)
Given the timeline of the hacks and the bad blood between Putin and Clinton, the intel assessment of his motivations isn’t surprising. U.S. intelligence has traced the launch of the hacks as far back as Spring 2015 — months before Trump announced his bid for the presidency — and that launch almost certainly took several months of planning. Trump was a media punchline, if anything, at that point, while Clinton had long been on Putin’s bad side.
Their rocky relationship goes back to her tenure as secretary of state and as senator. At one point she accused his party of rigging an election, and Putin accused her of inciting protests against his government. Even Clinton herself has attributed a grudge toward her as the motivation for the Russian hacks.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report adds. The New York Times rushed to hype this bit of the assessment, seemingly confirming headlines the paper and other outlets such as The Washington Post have been running for weeks about Russia’s supposed goal of helping Trump. (RELATED: Three Bungled WaPo Stories On Russian Meddling All Show The Same Mistakes)
But since the report states Putin’s original intent had nothing to do with Trump, it’s not clear what conclusions can be drawn from Russia’s eventual siding with the president-elect. If Putin wanted to denigrate Clinton, it’s reasonable to assume he would have come to “prefer” any candidate opposing her in the general election.
“When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency,” the report adds, making it clear the underlying goal was about hurting Clinton.
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