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Intel officials altered finding Russia wants Trump to win in 2020 to spare themselves from the president’s anger: report

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President Donald Trump's manner with Russian leader Vladimir Putin was in contrast to the anger he flashed at NATO allies. (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)

According to an extensive investigation into a National Intelligence Estimate complied by various U.S. intelligence agencies last July, the New York Times is reporting that a key “finding” indicating that Russian President Vladimir Putin is highly interested in keeping Donald Trump in the Oval Office past 2020 was omitted by officials fearing the president’s wrath.

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Under a headline, “Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles with U.S. Intelligences Agencies,” the Times notes that the N.I.E. report was intended to document Russia’s efforts to meddle in both the 2020 presidential election as well as the one slated for 2024.

However one of the key findings, under the category of “key judgments,” listed “Key Judgment 2 was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president: Donald Trump.”

That particular conclusion was subsequently altered over fears of how the president would receive it.

“The intelligence provided to the N.I.E.’s authors indicated that in the lead-up to 2020, Russia worked in support of the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as well,” the Times reports. “To allay any speculation that Putin’s interest in Trump had cooled, Key Judgment 2 was substantiated by current information from a highly sensitive foreign source described by someone who read the N.I.E. as ‘100 percent reliable.'”

The Times reports that the conclusion was not considered controversial by officials, but it ended up being changed down the line before it was presented to the president.

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According to a former senior adviser to Trump, “You couldn’t have any conversation about Russia and the election without the president assuming you were calling his election into question. Everyone in the White House knew that, and so you just didn’t talk about that with him.”

The report notes that in September edits from an O.D.N.I. official to the N.I.E.’s reviewers were submitted with a note stating, “We have highlighted the major changes in yellow; they make some of the KJ language clearer and highlight … Russia’s motivation for its influence activities.”

As the Times reports, “No longer did Key Judgment 2 clearly state that Russia favored the current president, according to an individual who compared the two versions of the N.I.E. side by side. Instead, in the words of a written summary of the document that I [NYT journalist Robert Draper] obtained, the new version concluded that ‘Russian leaders probably assess that chances to improve relations with the U.S. will diminish under a different U.S. president.’ The National Intelligence Board approved the final version at a meeting on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2019.”

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Draper added, “Such a change, a former senior intelligence official said, would amount to “a distinction without a difference and a way to make sure [then director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Vice Adm. Joseph] Maguire doesn’t get fired.”

According to one official who spoke about life in the intelligence community under Donald Trump, “The problem is that when you’ve been treated the way the intelligence community has, they become afraid of their own shadow. The most dangerous thing now is the churn — the not knowing who’s going to be fired, and what it is you might say that could cost you your job. It’s trying to put out something and not get creamed for it.”

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