A report compiled by the CIA and sent directly to former President Barack Obama detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct instructions to interfere in the 2016 election and help elect Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the Washington Post reports.
Among the revelations in a bombshell report detailing the shortcomings of the Obama administration in response to Russia’s threat against American democracy is the existence of a report that detailed Putin’s “direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.” That effort, according to the Post, included specific orders to defeat Clinton and elect Trump.
Intelligence officials have been unanimous on Putin’s direct involvement in Russia’s election hacking since last year, but have been previously reluctant to ascribe a goal to Kremlin’s influence campaign for fear of exposing sources and methods. As the Post notes, the CIA’s report on Putin’s directive to elect Trump over Clinton came “from sourcing deep inside the Russian government” and was considered too sensitive to be shared in the President’s Daily Briefing.
Many in the Obama administration fear the former president did not do enough to stop Russian interference, for fears that any action would be seen as tipping the scales in favor of Clinton, who’d served in the 44th president’s cabinet. Instead Obama left his successor a secret program that could be used to retaliate against the Kremlin—which was left entirely up to Trump to implement. As the Post reports, the Obama administration felt the retaliation effort was undermined by the incoming Trump administration.
For his part, Trump has been reluctant to even admit Putin was responsible for last year’s attack on the U.S. voting system, let alone that the Russian president had a specific goal to elevate Trump over Clinton. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he’s yet to ask the president whether he believes Russia interfered in the election.
"I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them, so I'd be glad to touch base and get back to you,” Spicer told reporters at Wednesday’s press briefing.
Investigators are currently trying to ascertain to what extent the incoming administration interfered with retaliation efforts put in motion by Obama. As Time reports, they’re also looking into whether the Trump associates used data from hacked voter databases during the campaign.
It wouldn’t be the first time Trump used hacked information to his advantage. In March of 2016, then-candidate Trump implored Russia to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Clinton’s private server. That comment was made during the height of an extensive Russian cyber campaign targeting the U.S. voting system with—as the Post reports—the expressed intent to elect Trump president.