U.S. officials disclose Russian think tank plans outlining interference in 2016 U.S. presidential election

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Seven current and former U.S. government officials told Reuters that a Russian think tank, reporting to Vladimir Putin and run by former KGB agents, developed a plan to interfere with last year's U.S. presidential election and ensure victory for now-President Donald Trump, Reuters reported on Thursday.

According to the anonymous officials, the two documents were prepared by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, whose directors are appointed by Vladimir Putin, in June and October respectively. The first recommended using social media-based propaganda to manipulate U.S. voters to elect someone friendly to Russia. The second recommended discrediting what it projected as Hillary Clinton's probable victory by creating rumors of voter fraud. U.S. intelligence did not discover these documents until after the election.

"I don't think it's a big surprise," said former CIA officer John Sipher in an interview with PBS. "President Putin hardly needed this group to tell him by June of 2016 that he should start trying to influence the election or to, you know, find a candidate that was pro-Russian, when we already by that time, all of us sort of knew that." Sipher went on to say Russia has tried to influence German and Bulgarian elections.

Neither of the documents covered the break-in to the Democratic National Committee by Russian hackers last fall. Reuters' anonymous sources told them the Kremlin organized the hack separately.

US government investigations into Trump team complicity in Russian tampering have thus far not produced any evidence Trump's associates were deliberately complicit in tampering.