Senior Russian officials celebrated Donald Trump's election victory as a win for Moscow, communications intercepted by US intelligence agencies revealed. The recent intel report also identified Russian officials, or "actors," who delivered stolen Democratic emails to WikiLeaks.
"The Russians felt pretty good about what happened on 8 November and they also felt pretty good about what they did," a senior US official said to The Washington Post. According to US officials, some Russian officials who celebrated Trump's victory may have also had knowledge of Moscow's cyber campaign to interfere in the US election.
US officials told the Post that the intercepted messages were viewed as strong indicators of Russia's intent and preference for Trump, but they were not regarded as conclusive evidence of Russian intelligence agencies' efforts to help put Trump in the White House.
Reuters reported the CIA identified Russian officials who delivered the hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails to WikiLeaks through third parties on orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The new intelligence report, which was delivered to President Barack Obama on Thursday (5 January), will be briefed to Trump on Friday. The President-elect has repeatedly rejected the assessment by the intelligence community about Russia's involvement in the cyber attacks. Russia has also denied any involvement.
"By October, it had become clear that the Russians were trying to help the Trump campaign," an official familiar with the 50-page report told Reuters.
One official said that in some cases the hacked documents traveled through "a circuitous route" from Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, to WikiLeaks. Reuters noted that it is a common practice employed by intelligence agencies, including US ones, to make the origins of material harder to trace.
The official said this allowed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to claim the Russian government or state agencies did not deliver the materials to the website. Assange spoke to Fox News this week to maintain WikiLeaks had not received the stolen emails from the DNC and Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta from "a state party".
In an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Moscow's cyber attack in the presidential election moved past interference and into "activism". Clapper added that US spy agencies "stand actually more resolutely" behind their assessment on Russia's intent behind the interference.
According to The Washington Post, Clapper also appeared to criticise Trump's continued attacks on the US intelligence community, saying "there's a difference between skepticism and disparagement". Trump continued to question the validity of the assessment in a series of tweets Thursday night.
"The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after is was supposedly hacked by Russia..." Trump wrote. "So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?"
An unclassified version of the report is expected to be released Friday morning, two officials told Reuters.