There is a lot to be disturbed about in the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s final report on Russian interference into the 2016 election released Tuesday. A lot to worry about in 2020.
The bipartisan committee, charged with evaluating the threat to U.S. national security, found that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
It found that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered the Russian effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president.”
It found that members of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign were inexperienced and ripe for Russian influence operations. And while the report did not find a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government, it showed direct links between Trump associates and Russian intelligence.
It found that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair who was indicted on multiple counts by special counsel Robert Mueller, had hired and worked closely with Konstantin Kilimnik. The report is the first time Kilimnik was identified as a Russian intelligence officer. Manafort on numerous occasions sought to “secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik,” though the committee was unable to reliably determine why. The committee found that Manafort’s position and information sharing with Russia-affiliated individuals represented a “grave counterintelligence threat.”
And the committee found a Trump campaign unconcerned with the provenance of certain damaging information and sometimes eager to exploit it, including being indifferent to whether the campaign and WikiLeaks were “furthering a Russian election interference effort.”
All of the above is from the main findings of the committee in its nearly 1,000-page report. It is what the committee describes as the “factual record” of the “counterintelligence threat posed by the Russian intelligence services and whether the [intelligence community] was appropriately positioned to meet that threat during the 2016 election cycle.”
The investigation was led by members of the president’s own party and represents three years of work, hundreds of witness interviews and engagements, and the review of millions of pages of documents.
The report is the latest all-sirens blasting warning by top U.S. intelligence experts that Russia is once again waging an influence campaign, and that campaign once again favors Trump in November.
No matter which candidate you support, these findings can’t be ignored. Congress must pass a law requiring political campaigns to report all offers of support from a foreign power to the FBI so this threat to our democratic process can’t be allowed to happen again.
For now, the campaign of Joe Biden, and especially the Trump campaign, must be vigilant about blocking these interference efforts, and immediately forward information about interference attempts to U.S. intelligence. That is clear-as-day patriotism, but we now know with the weight of certitude that it’s not what happened in 2016.
— The editorial board