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CIA Says Putin Most Likely Behind Election Interference to Help Trump

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CIA Says Putin Most Likely Behind Election Interference to Help Trump

2020-10-24 10:34:42

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot)

It's not too much of a surprise to find that a recent C.I.A. analysis has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin is most likely behind the interference in the United States election with the intent of helping Donald Trump get reelected.

The C.I.A.'s assessment was shared in support of this month's sanctions on Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who was behind information that was critical of former Vice President Joe Biden. This meets up with a similar warning intelligence officials gave to lawmakers earlier this year that Russia was interfering to help Trump. This action upset Republicans and was behind former acting director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire being pushed out.

The C.I.A. has a lower degree of certainty in this assessment that its 2016 assessment of Putin's involvement. This is because there weren't any communications or other evidence intercepted that confirmed Putin was behind Derkach's actions.

Sources said this new analysis was published in the C.I.A. Worldwide Intelligence Review before the sanctions were imposed.

National security officials have said that Putin's actions to interfere in U.S. politics never ended after 2016, though the level of disinformation spread has been uneven. Trump and his cronies have been able to treat the allegations as unproven because of the C.I.A.'s lowered confidence in this assessment.

Republicans don't agree with the C.I.A. analysis. The director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, was an ally of Trump's when he was still a member of Congress. He and other Republicans have insisted Putin's goal is to create chaos as a whole, not necessarily in favor of one candidate or another.

Trump doesn't back the C.I.A.'s assessment either. He went after FBI Director Christopher A. Wray last week after he testified that Russia was trying to disrupt U.S. politics and "denigrate Vice President Biden." The president insisted the focus should be on China's efforts. It was announced in August that China would like to see Biden elected; however, Beijing has not made significant effort to hurt Trump.

Still, intelligence officials have little doubt that Putin is behind Russian campaigns and that he's continued to direct his operatives to interrupt politics in the U.S.

American intelligence has not said what the extent of Russia's effort is or how public Putin is about the efforts.

William R. Evanina, the intelligence official in charge of election interference briefings, issued a statement in August that said Russia was attempting to influence the November election by denigrating Biden. He chalked this up to information that Derkach had released.

This week Evanina was scheduled to brief members of Congress's intelligence committees. Ratcliffe was trying to block in-person congressional testimony because of leaks. After bipartisan criticism, he changed his position to a block on only all-member briefings.

The C.I.A.'s assessment shows it's still willing to back the intelligence against Trump's wishes, according to some officials. The administration is also trying to push knowledge of Russia's actions.

On September 10, Derkach was described by the Treasury Department as "an active Russian agent" who had ties to Moscow's intelligence in Moscow. He was also purported to be involved in attempts to influence elections. He was behind the release of tapes of Biden that, according to American officials, were edited to mislead the public.

American intelligence has tried to follow Derkach's efforts to push information to lobbyists and Congress about Biden. According to a person familiar with the situation, the information was included in the C.I.A.'s assessment. Derkach denies that he has worked on behalf of Russia.

For well over a year, Trump has been pushing conspiracy theories about Biden and his son Hunter Biden being involved in Ukrainian politics and has also been insisting Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election interference. This resulted in an investigation by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). Democrats believe this is where the Russian disinformation was headed.

The Biden campaign has been critical of congressional GOP and the investigations into the former vice president and his son's ties to Ukraine. Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesman, said on Tuesday that some congressional members "have chosen to be accessories to foreign influence operations" and called out Trump's Russia policy.

"As Joe Biden has said for months, it is absolutely clear who Vladimir Putin wants to win this election — because Donald Trump's foreign policy has been a gift to the Kremlin," said Bates. 

Rudy Giuliani, who has been relentless in his search for information about the Bidens' possible wrongdoing in Ukraine, received information from Derkach. The C.I.A. analysis, however, did not mention Giuliani, according to a person familiar with the situation.

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