Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Picture: REUTERS
Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the 2016 hacking of Democratic Party accounts and the release of e-mails intended to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the US senate intelligence committee concluded in the final report of its Russia probe, which also found that President Donald Trump didn’t collude with Moscow.

“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 bipartisan panel wrote in the report, which was released on Tuesday.

“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.”

The committee’s three-year probe found numerous contacts between Trump associates and Russians or people with ties to the Russian government, as well as efforts by Trump to take advantage of the leaks politically, but the committee “did not find evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russians”.

The report, however, called former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort’s presence on the team a “grave counterintelligence threat”.

Manafort “created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump campaign”, the report said. The committee was particularly concerned about Manafort’s sharing of information with people it says were affiliated with Russian intelligence services and associates of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

‘Cannot happen again’

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, said the report, which involved sorting through millions of documents and hundreds of witness interviews, revealed “a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives”.

“This cannot happen again,” he said in a statement. “As we head into the heat of the 2020 campaign season, I strongly urge campaigns, the executive branch, Congress and the American people to heed the lessons of this report to protect our democracy.”

Russia has long denied interfering in the US election.

Republicans emphasised the lack of evidence of collusion by Trump and criticism of the FBI for its use of the salacious “Steele dossier” in its investigation, while warning that threats continue from Russia and other countries, including China and Iran, ahead of November.

“The committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election,” said acting chair Marco Rubio.

Rubio said the evidence of Russian meddling was “irrefutable”, but he also dinged the FBI for “its acceptance and willingness to rely on the ‘Steele Dossier’ without verifying its methodology or sourcing”.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said “politicians must take special care not to fall prey to foreign influence efforts, amplify disinformation, or politicise our adversaries’ attacks on us” and said the goal of the foreign efforts is to sow division.

Bloomberg

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