US president-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is dismissing media reports that the CIA believes the Russian government tried to intervene in the 2016 US election because it wanted Mr Trump to win.
US intelligence officials have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic officials’ email accounts in an attempt to interfere with the presidential campaign.
It is also alleged the Russian government successfully hacked Republican Party systems, but “conspicuously” chose not to release the material they uncovered.
The reports have prompted President Barack Obama to order a full review into hacking aimed at influencing US elections going back to 2008. The review would be completed before Mr Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
The Washington Post, citing anonymous US officials, said the CIA had concluded in a secret assessment that Russia aimed specifically to help Mr Trump win the presidency.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” an unnamed senior official said.
A Friday night statement released by Mr Trump’s transition team noted the CIA “are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”.
“The election ended a long time ago … It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’,” the statement said.
The New York Times, meanwhile, reported American intelligence agencies concluded with “high confidence” Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Ms Clinton’s chances and promote Mr Trump.
In October, the US government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organisations ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
The hacked emails passed to WikiLeaks were a regular source of embarrassment to the campaign of Hillary Clinton during the race for the presidency.
However, a senior official told the Post intelligence agencies did not have specific intelligence showing the Kremlin directed the individuals to pass the hacked emails to WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has also denied the Russian government was the source.
Republican Party ‘also hacked’
According to the Times, agencies also found with high confidence that the Russians had hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems, but hadn’t released whatever information they gleaned.
Officials from the Republican committee have been adamant their networks were not compromised and that only accounts of individuals were attacked.
An FBI investigation into the matter, however, asserts that attempts to penetrate the Republican committee’s systems were successful.
“We now have high confidence that they hacked the D.N.C. and the R.N.C., and conspicuously released no documents” from the Republican organisation, one senior administration official said, referring to the Russians.
The Times reported it is unclear how many files were stolen from the Republican committee.
The Times also said it’s far from clear Russia’s original intent was to support Mr Trump.
It also said many intelligence officials — and former officials in Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — believe the primary motive of the Russians was to simply disrupt the campaign and undercut confidence in the integrity of the vote.
Obama orders final-hour meeting
US President Barack Obama has ordered a meeting with intelligence agencies before he leaves office on January 20 to create a comprehensive history of the Russian effort to influence the election, and to solidify the intelligence findings, before Mr Trump is sworn in.
“The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders,” White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said.
Mr Trump has repeatedly denied intelligence indicating Russian interference in the election.
“I don’t believe they interfered,” he told Time magazine in an interview published this week.
He suggested hackers could come from China, or that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
That denial prompted disbelief from the former head of the US National Security Agency, retired General Michael Hayden.
“To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions. Wow,” Hayden said.
“The data matters,” he said. “He continues to reject the Russians did it… and claims that it was politicized intelligence.”
– with agencies