CIA Reportedly Confident Russia Interfered With Election To Help Trump Win
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There is a report that a secret CIA assessment found that Russia intervened in the U.S. presidential election to try to help Donald Trump win. That's according to reporting by The Washington Post. Adam Entous was one of the reporters on that story. Mr. Entous, thanks for being with us.
ADAM ENTOUS: It's great to be here.
SIMON: I gather from your reporting the CIA, the secret CIA assessment - no longer a secret - says this was not just general mischief but really trying to tip the results of the election. What's the difference between what we know now and what was said a few weeks ago?
ENTOUS: Right. We have to understand intelligence is evolving and coming in and being analyzed. And so earlier in the summer when the CIA was asked a similar question on the Hill in private briefings with senators, the CIA officers in their previous assessment basically thought that the Russians were intervening here just to undermine our electoral system. That was the assessment at the time. But more information has been coming in and has been clarified as they've been able to track the actors as they say who were involved in taking the democratic emails that had been hacked and providing them, according to U.S. officials, to WikiLeaks.
And other intelligence that they've collected from, you know, intercepted communications, as well as paid assets which provide the U.S. with tips - as that information has come in, they've basically revised that assessment. It's evolved to the point where about a week ago, there was a meeting on the Hill where the CIA briefed, again, senators behind closed doors and said that the new assessment is that the Russians intended on trying to help Trump.
SIMON: Now, the Trump campaign said late last night this is the same CIA that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I guess that's - essentially they're saying, come on, CIA - prove it.
ENTOUS: Yeah. I read that as basically saying that they don't believe the CIA. And certainly - you know, it's certainly true that the CIA has been wrong before. I mean, intelligence failures are, you know, not that uncommon in the history of the CIA. So, you know, they have a valid point that, you know, the track record here of getting this right is not a hundred percent. Nobody's track record is a hundred percent. What's interesting is obviously this is a president-elect who is going to be in charge of the CIA in a few months. And what is that relationship going to be - going to be like, given the obviously very different takes that top officials at the CIA and top officials in the Trump administration are taking.
SIMON: We have a conclusion, but we don't - at least, I haven't seen any evidence, and I wonder if you have. Do you think some of this report will be declassified?
ENTOUS: I don't know if they're going to declassify. I'm sure they will declassify some elements of the report, and I'm sure there will be leaks. I mean, this is obviously one of the most frustrating - for an - for an intelligence reporter, it's very, very hard to - you know, you never get to see this. It's very rare that you actually get to see the source material to make your own judgment. And this is one of the - one of the cases where, you know, you have to talk to Republicans and Democrats in different positions who have access to that source material. And based on their evaluating of that intelligence that they've seen themselves - and, you know, you have to have a track record of trust in those people that you put faith in this sort of information.
And this was certainly what was briefed to the Senate Intelligence Committee two weeks ago, but you're absolutely right. I mean, the administration can't fully lay out its case because it knows if it were to do so, it would be compromising what's known as sources and methods, which would then make it harder for the CIA and the NSA and other spy agencies to get more information in the future.
SIMON: I mean, the implications are enormous, as I don't have to tell you. The implications are that a foreign power elected the person who's going to take the oath of office in January.
ENTOUS: Yeah. I mean, it may be too far to say that they elected the person. They may have contributed to a groundswell of opposition to, you know, Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, by having those emails released. You know, we don't really know to what extent they actually succeeded in changing how people voted and perceptions of Hillary Clinton. And how do you quantify that?
But you - you know, you do see that there is, you know, a view now within the intelligence community that this was the intention of the Russians. Their intention wasn't - according to the CIA briefing, the intention wasn't just to make us - make them look weak, but actually to help Trump win.
SIMON: Adam Entous of The Washington Post, thanks so much.
ENTOUS: Great to be here. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.