FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. have backed a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the presidency, according to U.S. officials.
Comey’s support for the CIA’s conclusion suggests that the leaders of the three agencies are in agreement on Russian intentions, contrary to suggestions by some lawmakers that the FBI disagreed with the CIA.
“Earlier this week, I met separately with (Director) FBI James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a message to the agency’s workforce, according to U.S. officials who have seen the message.
“The three of us also agree that our organizations, along with others, need to focus on completing the thorough review of this issue that has been directed by President Obama and which is being led by the DNI,” Brennan’s message read.
Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.
The CIA and FBI declined to comment.
The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill about two weeks ago in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Specifically, CIA briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was one of Russia’s goals, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
CIA and FBI officials do not think Russia had a “single purpose” by intervening during the presidential campaign. In addition to helping Trump, intelligence officials have told lawmakers that Moscow’s other goal included undermining confidence in the U.S. electoral system.
A separate House intelligence briefing by a senior FBI counterintelligence official last week left some Republican and Democratic lawmakers with the impression that the bureau wasn’t on the same page as the CIA, according to officials present.
“The truth is they were never all that different in the first place,” an official said of the FBI and CIA positions.
In his message to the CIA’s workforce, Brennan said the administration has provided detailed briefings to lawmakers and their aides since the summer.
“In recent days, I have had several conversations with members of Congress, providing an update on the status of the review as well as the considerations that need to be taken into account as we proceed,” Brennan wrote. “Many – but unfortunately not all – members understand and appreciate the importance and the gravity of the issue, and they are very supportive of the process that is underway.”
(c) 2016 The Washington Post – Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima