A thinktank linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin had allegedly worked on a plan to sway the US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump, seven current and former US officials said, citing "confidential documents".
The officials told Reuters that two private documents – which are in the possession of US intelligence – revealed a framework chalked out by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies to influence the 2016 election.
According to the report, the officials alleged that the first document – drafted in June 2016 – mentioned that Russia should launch a social media campaign to weaken American voters' trust in the US electoral process.
It also claimed that Russian media outlets were asked to write reports encouraging Americans to vote for a pro-Kremlin leader.
The second document – drafted in October – mentioned that Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. It also noted that Russia should end its pro-Trump stance and instead damage the Democratic candidate's reputation.
The four former and three current US officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity refused to comment how the US acquired the documents, shortly after the US elections. However, it is believed that the documents played an important role that led the Obama administration to conclude Moscow had launched a fake news campaign and hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC) along with Hillary Clinton's campaign to swing the election in Trump's favour.
Further, a former senior US intelligence official quoted by Reuters said: "Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map."
The Moscow-based thinktank is apparently led by retired officers from Russian intelligence agencies, chosen by the presidential office.
The presidential office and the Russian institute did not answer Reuters' request for comment. Putin and Trump have previously denied that the Kremlin meddled in the election.
Russian state-backed media outlets RT and Sputnik were accused of carrying news articles favourable to Trump. A spokesperson for Sputnik said in the assertions by intelligence officials were an "absolute pack of lies".