US senate panel concludes Putin meddled to help elect Trump
A US senate panel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections has reaffirmed a determination by the American intelligence community that Moscow meddled in the polls to harm Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump win the presidency.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, in a summary of its findings released on Tuesday, also concluded that the meddling was conducted on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The committee said Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections, the “influence campaign was approved by President Putin” and that the goal was to “denigrate secretary (of state) Clinton” and that “Putin and the Russian government (had) developed a clear preference for Trump”.
Headed by a Republican, the committee, its findings and its functioning were in marked contrast to the deliberations and conclusions of the panel’s counterpart in the House of Representatives — the House panel has been dogged by partisan bickering and the two parties have released separate and differing reports.
The Senate report came less than a fortnight ahead of Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, at which the US president is expected to raise the issue of Russian interference in the polls.
But Trump, who has bristled at suggestions that Russians helped him win the election, has been only too eager to accept Putin’s denials. “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump tweeted late last month.
The senate committee’s findings are focussed on the Intelligence Community Assessment that was ordered in December 2016 by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. It called the assessment “a sound intelligence product” written by analysts who were under “no politically motivated pressure” and were “free to debate, object to content, and assess confidence levels, as is normal and proper”.
The committee continues to probe the meddling and plans to address related issues in subsequent findings. One of the issues it will investigate is the dossier put together by a former British spy Christopher Steele, who has alleged, without evidence, that Kremlin has some damaging information on Trump.
Russian interference in the 2016 elections is also being probed by special counsel Robert Muller and his team, which has already secured several indictments and guilty pleas, including that of Trump’s former NSA Michael Flynn. Mueller’s team has been in discussions with the White House to interview Trump, who has said he is willing to do it. However, his legal team has strongly advised against it.
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