Published December 13, 2016
The nation’s top intelligence office is not on the same page as the CIA regarding its assessment that Russia interfered in the U.S. elections in a bid to help Donald Trump, a U.S. government source confirmed to Fox News on Tuesday.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the U.S. intelligence community, has not fully embraced the CIA finding.
Fox News is told that several U.S. election-related hacking incidents are being wrongly lumped together, when they should be treated as separate events -- these cover breaches at the Democratic National Committee and another campaign arm; in a top Hillary Clinton campaign official’s email account; and at state election boards.
Reuters reports that while the ODNI does not dispute the CIA’s general analysis on Russia hacking, the office is not convinced of the evidence that Moscow sought specifically to help Trump defeat Democratic opponent Clinton.
The government source told Fox News the discrepancy comes down to Russia’s intent.
One official also told Reuters that the CIA’s judgment was based on the fact that only Democratic information was leaked. The official called this a “thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment.”
The developments further underscore how U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies may be at odds over an assessment that has fueled Democratic complaints and questions about the race -- and spurred bipartisan calls for deeper congressional investigation.
The Clinton campaign chairman who was hacked, John Podesta, even backed calls for electors -- who are set to formally choose the president next week, based on the results of the Nov. 8 election -- to get an intelligence briefing on Russian interference in the race.
Trump, though, has pushed back hard at the reported assessment, calling it “ridiculous” in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
Potential space between the CIA and the ODNI on the matter was first revealed in a letter Monday from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The letter, obtained by Fox News, noted that the CIA finding conflicts with Clapper’s mid-November public testimony.
"On November 17, 2016, you told the Committee during an open hearing that the IC (Intelligence Community) lacked strong evidence connecting Russian government cyberattacks and WikiLeaks disclosures,” Nunes wrote.
In response to a question at the time from ranking Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, Clapper had said, “As far as the WikiLeaks connection, the evidence there is not as strong and we don't have good insight into the sequencing of the releases or when the data may have been provided. We don't have as good insight into that.”
The Nunes letter continued, “According to new press reports, this is no longer the CIA’s position … I was dismayed that we did not learn earlier, from you directly about the reported conflicting assessments and the CIA’s reported revision of information previously conveyed to this Committee.”
Nunes is requesting a briefing from the CIA and FBI on the current assessment of alleged Russian involvement related to the U.S. election no later than Dec. 16.
The Washington Post first reported Friday that the CIA concluded in a secret assessment that Russia interfered in the race to boost Trump, not just undermine confidence in the system. Intelligence agencies reportedly found individuals connected to the Russian government gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, as well as from Podesta – though the agencies did not have “specific intelligence” showing Kremlin officials directed the activity.
The Post reported, however, that the FBI also gave a differing account on potential Russian interference.
The Post reported Tuesday that the CIA assessment was based in part on intelligence indicating Moscow’s hacking disproportionately affected Democratic targets.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.