New intelligence report adds evidence that Trump was a Russian asset

By | March 18, 2021

William Saletan writes:

Donald Trump was a tool in a long-running Russian campaign to weaken the United States. That’s been documented in Republican-led investigative reports, and now it has been updated with new evidence, thanks to the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment of the 2020 election. The report, drafted by the CIA, the FBI, and several other agencies, was released in unclassified form on Tuesday, but it was presented in classified form on Jan. 7. In other words, it was compiled, written, and edited during Trump’s administration. It destroys his lies about the election, and it exposes him as a Russian asset.

The report debunks conspiracy theories, promoted by Trump and his lawyers, that hackers in other countries robbed him of victory. “We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to interfere in the 2020 US elections by altering any technical aspect of the voting process,” including “ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting results,” says the document. A separate analysis released by the Department of Justice reaches the same conclusion. The IC report adds that evidence of such operations, if they existed, would have shown up in U.S. surveillance or in “post-election audits of electronic results and paper backups.” The report implicitly mocks insinuations from Trump’s lawyers that former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, somehow rigged Trump’s defeat. “We have no information,” it notes drily, that “current or former Venezuelan regimes were involved in attempts to compromise US election infrastructure.”

During the campaign, Trump, his national security appointees, and his allies in Congress insisted that China was meddling in the election to help Joe Biden. They even claimed that China’s interference was more dangerous than Russia’s. The report shreds that fiction. China “did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the US Presidential election,” says the assessment. It finds no attempt by China to “provide funding to any candidates or parties,” and it challenges the Republican spin that China feared Trump because he was too tough. It argues, to the contrary, that Beijing saw Trump as a weaker adversary because he “would alienate US partners,” whereas Biden “would pose a greater challenge over the long run because he would be more successful in mobilizing a global alliance against China.”

As to Russia, the report leaves no doubt: In 2020, as in 2016, “President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations” to help Trump and hurt his Democratic opponent. [Continue reading…]

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