President-elect Donald Trump issued a statement saying cyberattacks did not influence the presidential election shortly after he received a Friday afternoon briefing from leaders of the U.S. intelligence community.
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump said.
“There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful,” he continued.
Shortly after Trump was briefed, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a declassified version of its report on cyberattacks during the election. That report said the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Agency all concluded that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” According to the report, the Russian government “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” during the election and tried to boost his chances of winning through propaganda and cyberattacks on the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The public version of the report specifically said the intelligence community “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.” In light of this, Yahoo News reached out to Trump’s presidential transition team to ask what was the basis for his claim the cyberattacks had no effect on the race. As of this writing, we have not received a response.
The briefing followed days of tension between Trump and intelligence officials as he publicly questioned their conclusion that the Russian government was behind hacking efforts during the presidential race. Those cyberattacks resulted in emails from the Democratic National Committee and top aides to Clinton being leaked online. The publication of those emails led to a steady drip of damaging stories about internal Democratic deliberations, disputes and tensions.
Trump was briefed about U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusions regarding the attacks in a meeting at his Trump Tower skyscraper in Manhattan. The meeting included Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey and the heads of the CIA and National Security Agency. The officials who met with Trump did not use the main entrance to the tower and were not seen by reporters camped out in the lobby.
President Obama commissioned the report on election cyberattacks from the intelligence community, and he received a briefing on the findings on Thursday. According to NBC News, a “senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge” of the report confirmed that it contained information indicating that Russia coordinated the hacking efforts and used third parties to give the emails to the activist organization WikiLeaks, which published the messages in bulk. NBC News also said the report included intercepted communications between Russian officials who were celebrating Trump’s victory over Clinton. On Twitter Friday morning, Trump called for a congressional investigation to determine how details of the report were shared with NBC News prior to his briefing.
“I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it,” Trump wrote.
In his statement on the briefing, Trump praised the members of the U.S. intelligence committee.
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation,” he said.
Trump also promised to put together a team dedicated to fighting cyberattacks after he takes office later this month.
“Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office,” Trump said. “The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”
This article was updated at 5:17 p.m. with information from the public report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.