Russian govt officials celebrated Trump's victory: US report

Above: A ticket for the US presidential inauguration ceremonies on Jan 20. Russian officials allegedly celebrated Mr Trump's victory in last year's election. Left: A T-shirt with an image of US President-elect Trump on display at a tourist shop in Ne
A T-shirt with an image of US President-elect Trump on display at a tourist shop in New York, in preparation for this inauguration. Mr Trump has expressed scepticism about the US intelligence community - in particular, its conclusions about Russia.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Above: A ticket for the US presidential inauguration ceremonies on Jan 20. Russian officials allegedly celebrated Mr Trump's victory in last year's election. Left: A T-shirt with an image of US President-elect Trump on display at a tourist shop in Ne
Above: A ticket for the US presidential inauguration ceremonies on Jan 20. Russian officials allegedly celebrated Mr Trump's victory in last year's election.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Spy agencies put together data in report pointing to Moscow's interference in election campaign

WASHINGTON • Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Mr Donald Trump's election victory as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to United States officials, who said US intelligence agencies intercepted communications following the Nov 8 election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials - including some whom American officials believe had knowledge of the country's cyber campaign to interfere in the US election - contributed to the US intelligence community's assessment that Moscow's efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Mr Trump to win the White House.

Other key pieces of information gathered by US spy agencies include the identification of "actors" involved in delivering stolen Democratic Party e-mails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort that Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored in Democratic and Republican campaign networks.

Those and other data points are at the heart of an unprecedented intelligence report being circulated in Washington this week that details the evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and catalogues other cyber operations by Moscow against US election systems in the past nine years.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials - including some whom American officials believe had knowledge of the country's cyber campaign to interfere in the US election - contributed to the US intelligence community's assessment that Moscow's efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Mr Trump to win the White House.

The classified document, which officials said is over 50 pages, was delivered to US President Barack Obama on Thursday.

It was expected to be presented to Mr Trump in New York yesterday by top US spy officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan.

Given Mr Trump's scepticism about the intelligence community - particularly its conclusions about Russia - the Trump Tower briefing has taken on the tenor of a showdown between the President-elect and the intelligence agencies he has disparaged.

"The Russians felt pretty good about what happened on Nov 8, and they also felt pretty good about what they did," a senior US official said.

US officials declined to say whether the intercepted communications were cited in the classified version of the report commissioned by Mr Obama, and they stressed that while the messages were seen as strong indicators of Moscow's intent and clear preference for Mr Trump, they were not regarded as conclusive evidence of Russian intelligence agencies' efforts to achieve that outcome.

"There are a variety of different exhibits that make the case, different factors that have provided the intelligence community with high confidence" that Russia sought in part to help elect Mr Trump, said a second senior US official who has reviewed intelligence findings on Russia's cyber operations.

Officials emphasised that "signals intelligence", as such communication is known, is treated by analysts with caution because statements can be taken out of context and sophisticated adversaries, including the Kremlin, are adept at spreading disinformation.

US officials who have reviewed the new report said it goes far beyond the brief public statement that Mr Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued in October, accusing Russia of having "directed" cyber operations to disrupt the US election and concluding, in a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that "only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorised these activities".

The new report incorporates material from previous assessments and assembles in a single document details of cyber operations dating back to 2008.

Still, US officials said there are no major new bombshell disclosures even in the classified report. A shorter, declassified version is expected to be released to the public early next week.

WASHINGTON POST

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'Russian govt officials celebrated Trump's victory: US report'. Print Edition | Subscribe