FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. have backed a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the presidency, according to U.S. officials.Comey's support for the CIA's conclusion suggests that the leaders of the three agencies are in agreement on Russian intentions, contrary to suggestions by some lawmakers that the FBI disagreed with the CIA.
A total of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies reviewed the evidence about foreign intervention in the U.S. presidential election, and each of them -- literally all 17 -- came to the same conclusion: the Russians did it. There was less unanimity, however, about why Vladimir Putin's government would commit such an outlandish crime.Multiple reports indicated that the FBI, for example, came to the conclusion that Russia intended to undermine the U.S. political process in order to make the American system look weak and ineffective. The CIA, however, concluded that Putin's government had a more specific priority: Russia wanted Donald Trump in the White House.Republicans have seized on the competing explanations to raise doubts about the broader findings, but the Washington Post reports today that the FBI and the CIA are actually on the same page.
NBC News has confirmed this report, noting today that the FBI has endorsed the CIA's assessment about the Russian intervention being a pro-Trump operation.In a message to the agency's employees, CIA Director John Brennan reportedly said, "Earlier this week, I met separately with (Director) FBI James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election."The key word in that sentence, of course, is "intent."The agencies agree that Russia didn't have one goal exclusively -- this operation wasn't solely about helping Trump -- but it was, according to every investigation, part of what motivated Putin and his government.So where does that leave us? The FBI, the CIA, and the Director of National Intelligence agree that Russia subverted an American election because it wanted Trump in the White House, while the only people pushing back against these findings are Trump, his closest allies, and officials in Moscow.It's the sort of thing voters and their elected representatives should care about.Postscript: Complicating matters, while Trump and his transition team have been eager to dismiss news organizations reporting on the intelligence community's findings, that pushback became a little more difficult today: Fox News told viewers yesterday it, too, has independently verified that Russia was responsible for the cyber-attack on the American election.Fox News' report added that the operation had been "sanctioned by the highest levels of the Russian government."