U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.2. Politico: "Earnest: Trump May Have Known Russia Behind Hacking Before Election Day."
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest contended Wednesday that it's entirely feasible that Trump was well aware of Russia's interference well before the intelligence community confirmed as much in October, a month before the election.That, by the way, was the last press conference that Trump has given.
"There's ample evidence that was known long before the election and in most cases long before October about the Trump campaign and Russia — everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent," Earnest told reporters. "It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent's campaign."
"That's why he was encouraging them to keep doing it," Earnest continued, referring to the then-GOP presidential candidate's invitation during a late-July news conference for Russia to find Clinton's missing emails. At the time, Trump added that Russia would "probably be rewarded mightily by our press."