We all know the 2016 presidential election was one of the most hotly-debated, divisive election cycles in living memory. We know that President-elect Trump won against former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, aided in no small part by a series of leaked emails that cast Clinton in a bad light with voters. And while many people suspected foreign intervention, U.S. intelligence agencies have now confirmed that Russia did, indeed, hack the election, according to The New York Times.
This week, President Obama requested a full review of recent investigations into the alleged possibility of Russian hackers deliberately tampering with the election. The investigation concluded that Russian hackers were not only behind the release to WikiLeaks of emails sent throughout the Democratic National Committee, but that these hackers infiltrated the Republican National Committee as well. They simply chose not to share that information in an attempt to hinder Clinton's bid for the presidency. The Washington Post reported on Friday that a senior official who was present when the intelligence agency briefed U.S. senators confirmed:
It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected. That’s the consensus view.
Prior to the intelligence agencies confirmation that Russians also hacked the Republican National Committee's computer systems, GOP officials repeatedly denied there had been any such compromise. For months, Republican officials have claimed that their computer systems were safe and only individual Republicans had their emails hacked.
The DNC was reportedly hacked by two separate Russian cyber intelligence units; one called "Cozy Bear" by security experts and the other "Fancy Bear". These same experts believe that "Cozy Bear" was working inside the DNC's computer networks for months before divulging the information found.
CNN reported that White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco spoke to reporters on Friday about the investigation, which has been looking into Russian cyber attacks against U.S. elections as far back as 2008.
The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders. This is consistent with the work that we did over the summer to engage Congress on the threats that we were seeing.
While Monaco went on to say the White House would divulge as much information about the investigation "as we can" (and all Democratic senators have asked Obama to declassify the investigation), she warned that the release of sensitive details could be potentially harmful.
You want to do so very attentive to not disclosing sources and methods that would impede our ability to identify and attribute malicious actors in the future.
Despite multiple intelligence agencies confirming the Russian hack of the election, President-elect Trump released a statement on Friday dismissing the allegations:
These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.'
Whether or not the Kremlin's main objective when hacking the 2016 election was to see President-elect Trump voted into office remains unclear. Some intelligence officials, as well as members of Clinton's campaign team, have asserted that the Russians' goal may have simply been to undermine confidence in the American election. These same officials told The New York Times that the Russians were "as surprised as everyone else by Trump's victory."