The Russia connection“A clear preference for President-elect Trump”: Senate Intel Committee on Russia’s 2016 influence campaign

Published 6 July 2018

On Tuesday, the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee, after sixteen months of investigation, has released the second unclassified installment of its report on the Russian election activities in 2016. The report was unanimously approved by all members of the committee. The three main takeaways: First, the January 2017 ICA [the Intelligence Community Assessment of Russia active-measures campaign to compromise the 2016 presidential election] “is a sound intelligence product”; second, “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operation”; third, “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

On Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Virginia) released he Committee’s unclassified summary of its initial findings on the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russian activities in the 2016 U.S. elections (the official title of the ICA: “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections”). The Committee found that the overall judgments issued in the ICA were well-supported and the tradecraft was strong. The Committee said that its investigation has shown that the Russian cyber operations were more extensive than the hack of the Democratic National Committee and continued well through the 2016 election.

“The Committee has spent the last sixteen months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” said Burr. “The Committee continues its investigation and I am hopeful that this installment of the Committee’s work will soon be followed by additional summaries providing the American people with clarity around Russia’s activities regarding U.S. elections.”

“Our investigation thoroughly reviewed all aspects of the January 2017 ICA, which assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign to target our presidential election and to destabilize our democratic institutions,” said Warner. “As numerous intelligence and national security officials in the Trump administration have since unanimously re-affirmed, the ICA findings were accurate and on point.  The Russian effort was extensive and sophisticated, and its goals were to undermine public faith in the democratic process, to hurt Secretary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.  While our investigation remains ongoing, we have to learn from 2016 and do more to protect ourselves from attacks in 2018 and beyond.”

Here is the full text of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s second unclassified installment of its report on the Russian election activities in 2016:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) is conducting a bipartisan investigation into a wide range of Russian activities relating to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  While elements of the investigation are ongoing, the Committee is releasing initial, unclassified findings on a rolling basis as distinct pieces of the investigation conclude.

The Committee has concluded an in-depth review of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) produced by CIA,  NSA, and FBI in January of 2017 on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections; declassified version released January 6, 2017) and have initial findings to share with the American people.

• The ICA was a seminal intelligence product with significant policy implications.  In line with its historical role, the Committee had a responsibility to conduct an in-depth review of the document.

• In conducting its examination, the Committee reviewed thousands of pages of source documents and conducted interviews with all the relevant parties - including agency heads, managers, and line analysts - who were involved in developing the analysis and drafting the assessment.

• The Committee is preparing a comprehensive, classified report detailing our conclusions regarding the ICA on Russian activities.  That report, when complete, will be submitted for a classification review, and the unclassified version will be released to the public.

The Intelligence Community Assessment: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections
Summary of initial findings
The Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) released in January 2017 assessed that Russian activities in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election represented a significant escalation in a long history of Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. domestic politics. This escalation was made possible by cyber-espionage and cyber-driven covert influence operations, conducted as part of a broader “active measures” campaign that included overt messaging through Russian-controlled propaganda platforms.  The ICA revealed key elements of a comprehensive and multifaceted Russian campaign against the United States as it was understood by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the end of 2016.