“We Must Do Better in 2020”: Bipartisan Senate Panel Releases Final Report on Russian 2016 Election Interference

The Report’s Key Findings

·  The Committee found that the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multi-faceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

·  Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort was working with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence officer, and sought to share internal campaign information with Kilimnik. The committee says it obtained “some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected” to Russia’s 2016 hacking operation.

·  Paul Manafort’s presence on the Trump Campaign and proximity to then-Candidate Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign.

·  George Papadopoulos was not a witting cooptee of the Russian intelligence services, but nonetheless presented a prime intelligence target and potential vector for malign Russian influence.

·  The Committee assesses that at least two participants in a June 9, 2016, meeting with Trump Campaign officials, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, have significant connections to the Russian government, including the Russian intelligence services.  The Committee, however, found no reliable evidence that information of benefit to the Campaign was transmitted at the meeting, or that then-candidate Trump had foreknowledge of the meeting.

·  The Committee found no evidence that anyone associated with the Trump Campaign had any substantive private conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the April 27, 2016, Trump speech held at the Mayflower Hotel.

·  Russian-government actors continued until at least January 2020 to spread disinformation about Russia’s election interference, and that Manafort and Kilimnik both sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, and not Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

·  Russia took advantage of the Trump transition team’s inexperience and opposition to Obama administration policies “to pursue unofficial channels,” and it’s likely that Russian intelligence services and others acting on the Kremlin’s behalf exploited the Transition’s shortcomings for Russia’s advantage.

·  WikiLeaks actively sought, and played, a key role in the Russian influence campaign and very likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort.

·  Trump and senior campaign officials sought to obtain advance information on WikiLeaks’ email dumps through Roger Stone, and that Trump spoke to Stone about WikiLeaks, despite telling the special counsel in written answers he had “no recollections” that they had spoken about it.

·  The FBI gave the Steele Dossier unjustified credence, based on an incomplete understanding of Steele’s past reporting record. The FBI used the dossier in a FISA application and renewals, and advocated for it to be included in the Intelligence Community Assessment before taking the necessary steps to validate assumptions about Steele’s credibility.  

·  The FBI lacked a formal or considered process for escalating their warnings about the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack within the organization of the DNC.

·  Campaigns, political leaders and other influential Americans must be even more diligent in the future not to fall victim to Russian interference, given the extent of Russia’s efforts and successes to reach campaign operatives in 2016.

Rubio said:

Now, as we head towards the 2020 elections, China and Iran have joined Russia in attempts to disrupt our democracy, exacerbate societal divisions, and sow doubts about the legitimacy and integrity of our institutions, our electoral process and our republic.

We must do better in 2020. The Committee’s five reports detail the signs and symptoms of that interference and show us how to protect campaigns, state and local entities, our public discourse, and our democratic institutions. I join with Vice Chairman Warner in urging everyone — our colleagues, those in the Administration, state and local elections officials, the media, and the American public — to read them and take the recommendations seriously.

Warner said:
After more than three and a half years of work, millions of documents, and hundreds of witness interviews, I’m proud that the Committee’s report speaks for itself.
At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date – a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections. I encourage all Americans to carefully review the documented evidence of the unprecedented and massive intervention campaign waged on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump by Russians and their operatives and to reach their own independent conclusions. 
This cannot happen again. As we head into the heat of the 2020 campaign season, I strongly urge campaigns, the executive branch, Congress and the American people to heed the lessons of this report in order to protect our democracy.

Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities is available here.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s previous reports:

·  Volume I: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure

·  Volume II: Russia’s Use of Social Media

·  Volume III: U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities

·  Volume IV: Review of the Intelligence Community Assessment

·  Additional declassifications of Volume IV: Review of Intelligence Community Assessment