Show Us The Evidence
U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S.
By William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian and Cynthia McFadden
- U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high
level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir
Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian
campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election,
senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Two senior officials with direct access to the
information say new intelligence shows that Putin
personally directed how hacked material from Democrats
was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came
from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S.
allies, the officials said.
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level
intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a
"vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an
effort to show corruption in American politics and to
"split off key American allies by creating the image
that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be
a credible global leader anymore," the official said.
Ultimately, the CIA has assessed, the Russian
government wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI and
other agencies don't fully endorse that view, but few
officials would dispute that the Russian operation was
intended to harm Clinton's candidacy by leaking
embarrassing emails about Democrats.
The latest intelligence said to show Putin's
involvement goes much further than the information the
U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence
agencies signed onto a statement attributing the
Democratic National Committee hack to Russia.
The statement said officials believed that "only
Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized
these activities." That was an intelligence judgment
based on an understanding of the Russian system of
government, which Putin controls with absolute
Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the
operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of
the term "high confidence" implies that the intelligence
is nearly incontrovertible.
"It is most certainly consistent with the Putin that
I have watched and used to work with when I was an
ambassador and in the government," said Michael McFaul,
who was ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.
"He has had a vendetta against Hillary Clinton, that
has been known for a long time because of what she said
about his elections back in the parliamentary elections
of 2011. He wants to discredit American democracy and
make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal
democratic order. And most certainly he likes
President-elect Trump's views on Russia," McFaul added.
Clinton cast doubt on the integrity of Russia's
As part of contingency planning for potential
retaliation against Russia, according to officials, U.S.
intelligence agencies have stepped up their probing into
his personal financial empire.
American officials have concluded that Putin's
network controls some $85 billion worth of assets,
officials told NBC News.
Neither the CIA nor the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence would comment.
A former CIA official who worked on Russia told NBC
News that it's not clear the U.S. can embarrass Putin,
given that many Russians are already familiar with
allegations he has grown rich through corruption and has
ordered the killings of political adversaries.
But a currently
serving U.S. intelligence official said that there are
things Putin is sensitive about, including anything that
makes him seem weak.
The former CIA
official said the Obama administration may feel
compelled to respond before it leaves office.
thing has heated up so much," he said. "I can very
easily see them saying, `We can't just say wow, this was
terrible and there's nothing we can do.'"
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