Trump intelligence officers accept report of Russia elections hacking
WASHINGTON—Several top Trump administration intelligence officials told a Senate panel Thursday they accept the conclusion of a report earlier this year that says Russia undertook data thefts and hacking during the 2016 election—a finding President Donald Trump has questioned.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats submitted a statement concluding that Russia “has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture” in recent years.
“This aggressiveness was evident in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and we assess that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 U.S. election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets,” Mr. Coats wrote in his statement.
Mr. Coats, a former senator from Indiana, was nominated as director of national intelligence in January by the incoming president.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Community, asked the intelligence community leaders if they accepted a January report from the Obama administration that Russia had attempted to interfere in the presidential election through a campaign of disinformation, data thefts and leaks. The report also concluded that the effort was aimed at boosting Mr. Trump and damaging his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In response to his question, the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency all simply said “yes.” All serve in the Trump administration, though the acting FBI leader, Andrew McCabe, and head of the NSA, Adm. Michael Rogers, were elevated under former President Barack Obama.
The January report didn’t draw any conclusions about whether the outcome of the election was affected by the Russian propaganda and hacking campaign, nor has any evidence been uncovered that systems involved in vote counting have been tampered with.
But Mr. Trump has been reluctant to accept the conclusions of the January report, produced in the final days of the Obama administration.
Mr. Trump, in a January statement after he was briefed by intelligence agencies on their findings, said: “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”