WASHINGTON • A Russian government think-tank controlled by President Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing last year's United States presidential election to Mr Donald Trump, three current and four former US officials told Reuters.
They described two confidential documents from the think-tank as providing the framework and rationale for what US intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov 8 election.
US intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, after the election. The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Mr Putin's office.
The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government. It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage US voters to elect a president who would take a softer line towards Russia than the administration of then President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.
A second institute document, drafted last October, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. Therefore, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and, instead, intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the US electoral system's legitimacy and damage Mrs Clinton's reputation, the seven officials said.
Dismissing the officials' claims as false, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "I don't know anything about this. I can only say that seven anonymous sources are not worth one real one."