The 2016 hacking of the Democratic Party's email system – and subsequent leaking of its messages – was personally ordered by Vladimir Putin and aided by Julian Assange, according to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
A just-released volume [PDF] from the panel's dossier on Russia's efforts to meddle in that year's White House race pretty much accuses the Assange-run WikiLeaks of actively helping Moscow in its dirty work – by obtaining the internal memos from Russian hackers and spreading them online to derail Hillary Clinton's campaign and help nudge Donald Trump to victory.
And we're told Trump's team tried to collaborate with WikiLeaks to time announcements with upcoming leaks, encouraged the online dumping of the emails, and tapped up oligarchs close to the Kremlin to exchange inside information.
'A key role in the Russian influence campaign'
"WikiLeaks actively sought, and played, a key role in the Russian influence campaign and very likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort," the bipartisan mega-report found.
The orders to Russian spies to hack the Democratic Party's ruling members came from the top, the senate report claims. We're told that Putin himself green-lit the campaign. Hackers were able to access the internal emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ahead of the Presidential election, and spread them via WikiLeaks.
"The committee 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," the senators wrote. "Moscow's intent was to harm the Clinton campaign, tarnish an expected Clinton presidential administration, help the Trump Campaign after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, and undermine the US democratic process."
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The report, from a committee of seven Republicans and six from the Democratic Party, with the majority led by Marco Rubio (R-FL), also mentions the Trump campaign's efforts to get in on the hack.
"While the GRU [Russian intelligence] and WikiLeaks were releasing hacked documents, the Trump campaign sought to maximize the impact of those leaks to aid Trump's electoral prospects," the senators wrote. "Staff on the Trump campaign sought advance notice about WikiLeaks releases, created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following their release, and encouraged further leaks."
Trump and his administration have denied any collusion with Russia, and the report noted that, at least legally, the Trump camp did not directly collude with the Kremlin. Instead, the campaign tapped up Russia's well-connected oligarchs to exchange information.
"The committee found no evidence that campaign officials received an authoritative government notification that the hack was perpetrated by the Russian government before October 7, 2016, when the [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] and [Department of Homeland Security] issued a joint statement to that effect," the report stated.
"However, the campaign was aware of the extensive media reporting and other private sector attribution of the hack to Russian actors prior to that point."
Surprising nobody, Paul Manafort, who was briefly Trump's presidential campaign chief, was named as the link between Trump's camp and Russia, using his ties to Moscow's oligarchs to obtain information about the hacking operation, as well as funnel internal info out of the campaign and into Russia.
"On numerous occasions, Manafort sought to secretly share internal campaign information with [Russian oligarch Konstantin] Kilimnik," the report stated. "The committee was unable to reliably determine why Manafort shared sensitive internal polling data or campaign strategy with Kilimnik or with whom Kilimnik further shared that information."
And, of course, there's Manafort's business partner Roger Stone. The Republican strategist who Trump said was in a "horrible and very unfair situation" when convicted of lying to Congress was, indeed, found to be the link between Trump's camp and WikiLeaks.
"Trump and senior campaign officials sought to obtain advance information about WikiLeaks's planned releases through Roger Stone," the report stated. "At their direction, Stone took action to gain inside knowledge for the Campaign and shared his purported knowledge directly with Trump and senior Campaign officials on multiple occasions."
Roger Stone would go on to have his felony sentence commuted by Trump. ®