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US intelligence report: Putin 'ordered' targeted involvement in US election

A new US intel report has found that Putin "ordered" a hacking campaign aimed at harming Hillary Clinton's electability. The report also found the Russian government showed a "clear preference" for Donald Trump.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a media manipulation and hacking campaign targeting the 2016 US presidential election, according to a declassified version of a  US intelligence report that was released on Friday.

The report found that the Russian government specifically targeted Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton with the goal of harming her presidential campaign.

"Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency," said the report from the Director of National Intelligence. The report also alleges that Putin had a personal grudge against Clinton, blaming her for stoking 2011 protests against his rule while she was secretary of state.

Intelligence officials released a 25-page public version of the report on Friday after briefing President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump and top US lawmakers with a longer, classified version.

The report also found that Putin and the Russian government "developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump." However, the intelligence agency noted that it did not assess the impact of Russian meddling on the outcome of the US election.

Trump defended the legitimacy of his election victory on Friday following his two-hour intelligence briefing with intelligence officials on the results of the Russian meddling report.

Ties to WikiLeaks

Additionally, intelligence officials said that they believe "with high confidence" that the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, used intermediaries such as WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and Guccifer 2.0 to release emails it acquired from the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

An annex to the report noted that when US intelligence assigns "high confidence" to an allegation, the information is based on "high-quality information from multiple sources." However, the sources and methods of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) are protected in the report, which may not convince skeptics.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied that a "state party" provided him with stolen emails from the DNC and from top Clinton aide John Podesta. Assange did not rule out the possibility that the emails came from a third party.

Russia has repeatedly denied the US government's accusations of hacking during the 2016 election campaign.

Trump promises 'aggressive' action

Following release of the public report, Vice President-elect Mike Pence told reporters that Trump will act against cyber hacking once he takes office.

"The president-elect has made it very clear that we are going to take aggressive action in the early days of our administration to combat cyber attacks and protect the American people from this type of intrusion in the future," Pence said outside of Trump Tower.

The much-anticipated report is likely to further agitate the debate over the outcome of an election in which Clinton won the popular vote but was beaten by Trump in the electoral college.

rs/kl (AP, AFP, Reuters)