For nearly a year and a half, American citizens and government officials have been debating the degree of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It has been alleged that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for at the time candidate Trump to win the election. The Russians attempted to infiltrate state election infrastructure while creating a system to utilize social media platforms to influence the election. Three reports have been released detailing the Russian’s involvement, or lack thereof.
The first is the Intelligence Community Assessment (“ICA”) created by the CIA, NSA, and FBI in January 2017. This report “assessed that Russian activities in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election represented a significant escalation in the long history of Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. domestic politics.” President Obama tasked the Intelligence Community with creating this report and thousands of files and pages were examined to reach their ultimate conclusion that the “Russians created a comprehensive and multifaceted campaign against the U.S.” President Trump and many others within the U.S. government refuted the claims that his campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the election.
The second released report, published by the House Intelligence Committee, supported President Trump’s claim that his campaign did not work with the Russian government, but it did conclude that the Russian government interfered with the election, as reported in the ICA. The report found that the ICA’s conclusions on Putin’s strategic intentions did not utilize proper analytic tradecraft and that there was no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This was seen as a victory for President Trump and Republicans, while Democrats rejected these conclusions due to the alleged existence of ample evidence of collusion.
The third and most recent report was released on July 3rd, 2018. The report, published by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, found further evidence of Russian interference, and that the ICA utilized proper analytic tradecraft. The report contradicts the House Committee Report because it concluded that President Putin approved of the media campaign to influence the elections. The Senate investigators also rejected President Trump’s claims that the ICA was politically influenced and used to discredit his presidency. However, the report is silent on the matter of collusion between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The answer to this national debate will come once special counsel Robert Mueller concludes his investigation into Russian meddling. Mueller has already indicted 13 Russian nationals for interfering with the elections, and the Senate’s new report lends credibility to his decision.
The Senate’s full classified report has yet to be written and it could reveal more information that was not released to the public on July 3rd, 2018. Both the relevant House and Senate committees continue to gather information, but it is clear from these reports that Russia influenced a U.S. presidential election for their own political gain. The Senate’s report can be seen as a victory for the rule of law and bipartisanship.