Bipartisan Senate Panel Backs Conclusion on Russian Meddling

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to participate in a group photo at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Adopting a conclusion reached long ago by the U.S. intelligence community, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee signed off Tuesday on findings that the plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election had come out of Russia.

“The committee found the ICA makes a clear argument that the manner and aggressiveness of the Russian interference was historically unprecedented,” the 158-page report states, using an abbreviation for the Intelligence Community Assessment submitted jointly by the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency on Dec. 30, 2016. 

Redactions obscure most of Tuesday’s report, which comes nearly three years after the same committee released a 7-page assessment that called the ICA “a sound intelligence product.”

The ICA concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government conspired and aided to elect Donald Trump as president. Many other examples of Russia’s attempts to atrophy democratic institutions and interfere in the elections of U.S. allies were included in the assessment.

Tuesday’s report note that the intelligence agencies came to their determinations about political interference independently, and that each was “free to debate, object to content and assess confidents levels” in their findings.

The ICA did not provide policy recommendations for how to respond to Russian interference in the future — something the report says is a “well-established norm,” as the intelligence community refrains from making recommendations.

Though the ICA found that Russia’s interference in 2016 was unprecedented, the Senate committee emphasized that the assessment included little detail on interference in the 2008 to 2012 elections, despite the president’s direction for such an undertaking.

There are two sections of Tuesday’s report dedicated to Putin’s involvement in schemes to sow discord in American political conversations. Both areas are completely redacted, but the report notes the Senate Intelligence Committee considers the sections “supported and substantiated by multiple intelligence disciplines.” 

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., wrote a statement within Tuesday’s report that its contents are not in doubt solely because Putin denies them. 

“The findings are not a ‘hoax,’” Wyden wrote. “They are not in doubt because as Donald Trump stated, Vladimir Putin ‘very strongly’ denies them. Russian interference in the 2016 election is a fact and Donald Trump’s deference to Putin only serves to further Russian disinformation and undermine efforts to defend the United States against ongoing attacks.”

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said in a statement Tuesday that the report “reflects strong tradecraft, sound analytical reasoning,” and proper discussion of the intelligence presented. The bipartisan Senate committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community’s assessment, he said.  

“One of the ICA’s most important conclusions was that Russia’s aggressive interference efforts should be considered ‘the new normal,’” Burr said. “That warning has been borne out by the events of the last three years, as Russia and its imitators increasingly use information warfare to sow societal chaos and discord.” 

Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a statement Tuesday the report represented the type of unbiased work the nation expects from the intelligence community.

“There is certainly no reason to doubt that the Russians’ success in 2016 is leading them to try again in 2020 and we must not be caught unprepared,” said Warner, who is the committee’s Vice Chairman

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