Russian government think tank run by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 US presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, according to three current and four former US officials told. They said this to Reuters.
They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework for what US intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the November 8 election. US intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies after the election.
The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.
The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government. It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage US voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.
A second institute document warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the US electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the officials said.
Putin has denied interfering in the US election. “Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” former senior US intelligence official said.
Trump said Russia’s activities had no impact on the outcome of the race. Ongoing congressional and FBI investigations have no public evidence that Trump’s associates cooperated with Russia to change the outcome of the election.
Russia Today and Sputnik published anti-Clinton stories while pro-Kremlin bloggers prepared a Twitter campaign calling into question the fairness of an anticipated Clinton victory, according to a report by US intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the election made public in January.
Neither of the Russian institute documents mentioned the release of hacked Democratic Party emails to interfere with the election, according to four officials. They said the hacking was a covert intelligence operation run separately out of the Kremlin.
The overt propaganda and covert hacking efforts reinforced each other. Both Russia Today and Sputnik heavily promoted the release of the hacked Democratic Party emails, which often contained embarrassing details.
Earlier it FBI confirmed it investigates possible Russian interference in US presidential elections. Also the bureau is investigating possible collusion between Russia and Trump's team.