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Putin ordered influence campaign to ‘advantage’ Trump: Clapper

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies about potential Russian interference in the presidential election before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, May 8, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Former Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper has defended the assessment by the intelligence community that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly interfered in last year’s presidential election to help Donald Trump.

"While it's been over four months since the issuance of the assessment, as [FBI and NSA] Directors [James] Comey and [Michael] Rogers testified ... the conclusions and confidence levels reached at the time still stand," Clapper told senators during a hearing on Monday.

Clapper summarized the intelligence assessment, completed by the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency, by saying that the Russian leader directed an “influence campaign” to erode the "faith and confidence" of American voters and "demean” then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The former intelligence chief also said that Putin "sought to advantage Mr. Trump."

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the State Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

In the run-up to the Nov. 8 vote, WikiLeaks kept releasing batches of emails from Clinton's campaign as well as the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Russia targeted both parties 

Clapper said the Russians collected information on both Republicans and Democrats but only chose to release damning information about the DNC.

"The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets," he said.

US President Donald Trump (file photo)

The hearing was called as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into Trump's alleged links to Russia and the Kremlin's effort to help him.

For several weeks, the White House has used Clapper's statement in previous testimony, that he had seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, to fend off accusations that Russia tried to help Trump get elected.

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In October, Washington formally accused Moscow of a campaign of cyber operations against American political organizations ahead of the presidential election.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, ordered the intelligence community to fully review Russia’s cyber operations.

Early this month, Clinton claimed she was close to winning the election until the FBI director publicly announced an investigation into her use of a personal email server. She also blamed Russia’s alleged interference in the election for her loss. 

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The Kremlin has dismissed the US intelligence report as “baseless allegations” and being part of a political witch-hunt.

“We are growing rather tired of these accusations. It is becoming a full-on witch-hunt,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in January.

Also in May, President Putin himself refuted all allegations of meddling in the US vote, which he said were the result of political infighting in Washington.

Asked whether Moscow had sought to influence the result of the US presidential election, Putin replied, “Read my lips – no,” saying the word "no" in English so as to clearly highlight the utter falsehood of all those statements.

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