C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence
WASHINGTON — U.S. spy and law enforcement agencies were united in the belief, in the weeks before the presidential election, that the Russian government had deployed computer hackers to sow chaos during the campaign. But they had conflicting views about the specific goals of the subterfuge.
Last week, CIA officials presented lawmakers with a stunning new judgment that upended the debate: Russia, they said, had intervened with the primary aim of helping make Donald Trump president.
The CIA’s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several U.S. officials, including some who had read the agency’s briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence — evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments — that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Trump, and got their desired outcome.
It is unclear why the CIA did not produce this formal assessment before the election, although several officials said that parts of it had been made available to President Barack Obama in the presidential daily briefing in the weeks before the vote. But the conclusion that Moscow ran an operation to help install the next president is one of the most consequential analyses by U.S. spy agencies in years.
Trump’s response has been to dismiss the reports by citing another famous intelligence assessment — the botched 2002 conclusion that the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction — and portraying U.S. spies as bumbling and biased.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said on Sunday in an interview on Fox News. Some top Republican congressmen have said the same, although with less bombastic language, arguing that there is no clear proof that the Russians tried to rig the election for Trump.
Yet there is a loud chorus of bipartisan voices, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., going public to accuse the Russians of election interference.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the public evidence alone made it clear that Moscow had intervened to help the “most ostentatiously pro-Russian candidate in history.”
来自加利福尼亚州的众议员亚当·B·希夫(Adam B. Schiff)是众议院情报委员会中地位最高的民主党人，他说，仅是公开的证据就可清楚地表明，莫斯科已出面帮助了“有史以来最公开张扬亲俄罗斯的候选人”。
“If the Russians were going to interfere, why on earth would they do it to the detriment of the candidate that was pro-Russian?” Schiff asked.
Both intelligence and law enforcement officials agree that there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the Russian hacking was primarily aimed at helping Trump and damaging his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In July, the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers produced embarrassing emails and other internal party documents, the publication of which caused a backlash that led to the resignation of the committee’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and her top staff. Just weeks before the election, hacked emails from the account of John D. Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, were made public and produced numerous stories about the internal dynamics of the campaign. That hack also produced the text of speeches Clinton had given to Wall Street banks.
今年7月，对民主党全国委员会计算机服务器的渗透，暴露了令人尴尬的电子邮件和其他党内文件，那次泄露引发了巨大反响，导致民主党全国委员会主席黛比·沃瑟曼·舒尔茨(Debbie Wasserman Schultz)及其主要工作人员辞职。就在大选日的几周前，黑客从克林顿竞选团队主席约翰·D·波德斯塔(John D. Podesta)的账号盗取的电子邮件被公开，让许多有关竞选团队内部互动的报道得以发表。这次黑客袭击还泄露了克林顿在华尔街银行演讲的稿子。
U.S. intelligence officials believe that Russia also penetrated databases housing Republican National Committee data, but chose to release documents only on the Democrats. The committee has denied that it was hacked.
Beyond the specific targets of the hacks, U.S. officials cite broad evidence that Putin and the Russian government favored Trump over Clinton.
And yet, there is skepticism within the U.S. government, particularly at the FBI, that this evidence adds up to proof that the Russians had the specific objective of getting Trump elected.
A senior U.S. law enforcement official said the FBI believed that the Russians probably had a combination of goals, including damaging Clinton and undermining U.S. democratic institutions. Whether one of those goals was to install Trump remains unclear to the FBI, he said.
The official played down any disagreement between the FBI and the CIA, and suggested that the CIA’s conclusions were probably more nuanced than they were being framed in the media.
The agencies’ differences in judgment may also reflect different methods of investigating the Russian interference. The FBI, which has both a law enforcement and an intelligence role, is held to higher standards of proof in examining people involved in the hacking because it has an eye toward eventual criminal prosecutions. The CIA has a broader mandate to develop intelligence assessments.
Law enforcement officials said that if FBI agents had the evidence to charge Russians with specific crimes, they would do so. The FBI and federal prosecutors have already gone aggressively after Russian hackers, including two men detained in Thailand and the Czech Republic whom the U.S. is trying to extradite.
Russia has tried to block those efforts and has accused the U.S. of harassing its citizens.
The FBI began investigating Russia’s apparent attempts to meddle in the election over the summer. Agents examined numerous possible connections between Russians and members of Trump’s inner circle, including former Trump aides like Paul Manafort and Carter Page, as well as a mysterious and unexplained trail of computer activity between the Trump Organization and an email account at a large Russian bank, Alfa Bank.
联邦调查局从今年夏天开始调查似乎是俄罗斯干预大选的尝试。特工调查了俄国人与特朗普竞选班子内部成员之间的许多可能联系，包括像保罗·马纳福特(Paul Manafort)和卡特·佩奇(Carter Page)这样的特朗普前助手，以及特朗普集团(Trump Organization)与一家俄罗斯大银行——阿尔法银行的一个电子邮件帐户之间的神秘的、原因不详的计算机活动踪迹。
At the height of its investigation before the election, the FBI saw some indications that the Russians might be explicitly seeking to get Trump elected, officials said, and investigators collected online evidence and conducted interviews overseas and inside the U.S. to test that theory.
The FBI was concerned enough about Russia’s influence and possible connections to the Trump campaign that it briefed congressional leaders — including Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Senate minority leader — on some of the evidence this summer and fall. Reid, in particular, pressed for the FBI to find out more and charged that the agency was sitting on important information that could implicate Russia.
But the agency’s suspicions about a direct effort by Russia to help Trump, or about possible connections between the two camps, appear to have waned as the investigation continued into September and October. The reasons are not entirely clear, and FBI officials declined to comment.
Now that a partisan squall has erupted over exactly what role Russia played in influencing the election, there is growing momentum among both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to have a congressional investigation.
“I’m not trying to relitigate the election,” said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who is one of the lawmakers calling for such an investigation. “I’m just trying to prevent this from happening again.”