The lessons on Russian intelligence

The lessons on Russian intelligence

The Russian connectionThe lessons on Russian intelligence


By Christina Pazzanese


Published 4 May 2017

Despite President Trump’s saying that it’s all just “fake news,” James R. Clapper, who was U.S. director of national intelligence from 2010 until January, said he has no doubt that Russia successfully interfered in the 2016 election and “clearly favored” Trump over Hillary Clinton. “Clearly, the Russians — and the shots were called at the highest level — were interested first in sowing dissension and doubt and discord in this country,” Clapper said. As the campaign went on, however, he said their aims switched to helping Trump. “They, too, didn’t initially take Mr. Trump seriously, but later on they did,” Clapper said at a Harvard Kennedy School talk. Clapper said we should expect more Russian meddling in U.S. elections.



Despite President Trump’s saying that it’s all just “fake news,” James R. Clapper, who was U.S. director of national intelligence from 2010 until January, said he has no doubt that Russia successfully interfered in the 2016 election and “clearly favored” Trump over Hillary Clinton.


“Clearly, the Russians — and the shots were called at the highest level — were interested first in sowing dissension and doubt and discord in this country,” Clapper said. As the campaign went on, however, he said their aims switched to helping Trump.


“They, too, didn’t initially take Mr. Trump seriously, but later on they did,” Clapper said Tuesday evening at Harvard Kennedy School, where he discussed the ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference and whether any members of the Trump campaign had participated in it. Russia’s primary motivation was “intense animus” toward both Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, he said.


Russia mounted a multifaceted campaign that involved not just hacking email, but creating propaganda and paying people to push that material online and through RT, the state-run Russian media outlet that financed since-ousted National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s 2015 visit to Moscow.


“In my view, the evidence for this was overwhelming. [It was] extremely compelling just on the basis of cyber evidence alone,” said Clapper, who is scheduled to testify before Congress about the matter on Monday.


Under Clapper’s command during the Obama administration, seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies concurred that Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of emails and voter files belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta last year and targeted publication of pro-Trump or anti-Clinton propaganda disguised as misleading or false news stories.


Clapper, now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, pushed back on a claim, “deliberately misquoted or distorted” by some — including Trump — that the intelligence community had determined that Russia did not corrupt the results of the election. The agencies never rendered a judgment on that in their January report.


“All we said in the Intelligence Community Assessment was there was no evidence of messing with voter tallies in any of the fifty states. But we had neither the authority, the expertise, or the resources to assess what effect did it actually have on the election,” he said. It will remain an open question until Congress or some other body looks at it.