A secret assessment conducted by the CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the recent US presidential election to help Donald Trump win the race to the White House, The Washington Post reported.
Citing officials briefed on the matter, the publication reported on Friday (9 December) that intelligence agencies have identified multiple individuals with links to Kremlin who leaked thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta and others to WikiLeaks.
The assessment also found that the main aim of the interference was to help Trump win the presidency rather than undermine the US electoral process, officials said.
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected. That's the consensus view," a senior US official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to US senators told the paper.
Earlier this week, President-elect Donald Trump once again expressed doubts over US intelligence agencies' conclusion about Russian state-sponsored hackers carrying out cyberattacks on the DNC. He said the allegations were politically motivated.
"I don't believe they [Russia] interfered," Trump said in an interview with Time Magazine which named him Person of the Year. "It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey. I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people - sources or even individuals."
The Trump transition team also brushed off the CIA's assessment in a statement on Friday saying, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again'."
Meanwhile, the CIA reportedly shared its assessment with senators in a closed-door briefing session last week and said that it was now "quite clear" that getting Trump elected was Moscow's key goal, officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post. According to a senior US official, there were some disagreements regarding the CIA's latest findings over the extent to which the Kremlin was involved in directing the cyberattacks.
Another senior US official said that the intelligence community did not have any evidence that showed Kremlin officials "directing" the identified individuals to leak emails to WikiLeaks. The officials described the individuals as actors that were known to the intelligence community, adding that they were part of a bigger Russian initiative to assist Trump and damage Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's campaign. They noted that these individuals were "one step" removed from the Kremlin rather than government employees.
In November, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had denied that the Kremlin was the source of the series of leaked emails that were consistently published in the run-up to Election Day.
In October, the White House officially blamed Moscow for directing the cyberattacks against the the DNC and other political organisations in an effort to interfere in the presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the allegations and denied any involvement in the cyberattacks.
Meanwhile, on 9 December, President Barack Obama ordered the country's national intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of the cyberattacks during the 2016 election season. He has also asked for the report to be delivered before he leaves office on 20 January 2017.
Senior House Democrats recently wrote to President Obama, pressing the White House to brief Congress on the Russian hacks, subsequent strategic release of emails, fake news stories produced and released to misinform voters and any other attempts to influence the election. Democrats also announced legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate and address the attacks.
"Unless we establish some kind of deterrent, this is going to be unending," Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said.