Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks with press on Sept. 5, 2016, aboard his campaign plane, while flying over Ohio, as Vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence looks on.
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Trump gets the Russian intel briefing he’s been waiting for

Earlier this week, Donald Trump tweeted, “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” Just about every assertion in the message was wrong.

There’s no need to put information from U.S. intelligence agencies in scare quotes; the briefing wasn’t delayed because it had always been scheduled for Friday; intelligence professionals didn’t need more time to build a case; and the only thing that’s “very strange” is the president-elect publicly taunting the intelligence officials who’ll soon work for him.

Nevertheless, today is Friday, and Trump was willing to actually participate in today’s briefing. Soon after, his transition office released a statement that was clearly written by someone other than the president-elect.
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation.

“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. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.

“Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office. The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”
This is, by the way, the statement in its entirety, not an excerpt.

Note, this nearly 200-word statement says very little of substance. Trump has insisted for months that he believes Vladimir Putin’s denials and the president-elect refuses to consider the possibility that the evidence against Russia is correct. Nothing in today’s statement suggests he’s changed his mind.

Indeed, Trump’s statement doesn’t even acknowledge the intelligence agencies’ findings. In other words, intelligence professionals told the president-elect today that Russia was responsible, but Trump doesn’t want to mention this core truth.

As for publicly available information, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released this 25-page document this afternoon. Among other things, the unclassified document notes:
Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.
Trump may want to dismiss these findings, but there’s no reason Americans or their elected representatives should.


Donald Trump, Intelligence, Russia and Scandals

Trump gets the Russian intel briefing he's been waiting for