Russian President Vladmir Putin tried to help Donald Trump gain the White House during the 2016 US presidential election through a well-orchestrated and broad influence campaign and cyber-operations as the US intelligence community (IC) has long claimed, according to an unclassified summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's probe of the IC's assessment.
The committee said it concurred with the January 2017 ICA contentions that Russia conducted cyber-operations against 2016 presidential election targets, "including targets associated with both major US political parties," that Russian intelligence collected against US organisations "likely to shape future US policies" and that its operatives successfully accessed Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks, where they remained at least until June 2016.
That judgment is "supported by intelligence and further supported by our own investigation," the committee said, adding that separately it has "conducted interviews of key individuals who have provided additional insights into these incidents."
The intelligence committee "has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment [ICA] and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the committee's chairman, said in a statement.
"We found that the ICA assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered this influence campaign to destabilize our democratic institutions is well supported," the committee's ranking member, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., tweeted.
While "the committee finds the difference in confidence levels between the NSA and the CIA and FBI on the assessment that ‘Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump's election chances,'" the seven-page summary said the ICA "appropriately represents analytic differences and was reached in a professional and transparent manner."
The Senate panel's findings and tone differ greatly from counterparts in the partisan-torn House Intelligence Committee, which abruptly ended its investigation into Russian interference last spring and whose chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had to recuse himself from leading the probe amid an ethics complaint.
"There is no evidence that Trump associates were involved in the theft or publication of Clinton campaign-related emails, although Trump associates had numerous ill-advised contacts with Wikileaks," the House committee's April report said, noting that the Trump team "made ample use of the publicly available emails," that appeared in numerous news media outlets. "There is no evidence that Trump or anyone associated with him played a role in the hacking of emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, among other entities and individuals."
Trump has long expressed skepticism that Russia tried to help him win the election and has repeatedly called the Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller a "witch hunt."
As recently as last week, the president tweeted that "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" He is scheduled to attend a summit with Putin 16 July in Helsinki, where, he has indicated, he will broach the issue of Russian meddling once more.
"Evidence and intel we have seen since the ICA was written further supports those findings and tells us that the Russians aren't going to stop," Warner cautioned. "Russia will be back in 2018. We need to be ready."