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U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in Hacking American Elections

U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in Hacking American Elections

The hacking trail that phished and leaked embarrassing Democratic Party documents to advantage President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign appears to lead back to Russian President Vladimir Putin, intelligence officials told NBC News.

New intelligence cited Thursday by NBC shows that the Russian president was personally involved in determining how hacked material was used, according to two senior officials who were not identified in the report.

Putin apparently had both a “vendetta” against Hillary Clinton and a desire to show American corruption while splitting “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” one of the officials told NBC. Putin blamed Clinton for the anti-corruption, anti-Putin protests of 2011, saying at the time that members of the opposition “heard the signal” when Clinton, then secretary of state, criticized Russia’s parliamentary elections.

In October, the Homeland Security Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence wrote a letter on behalf of the 17-agency U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia linked to the hacks against the Democratic National Committee. Trump has for weeks tried to cast doubt on Russian involvement in the Nov. 8 vote he maintains he won fair and square.

Several Republican and Democratic senators are calling for an investigation of Russian interference with America’s elections. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Wednesday that this is not a partisan issue, and that he intends to push for “crippling sanctions” to punish Russia.

But this may lead to a split in the GOP; incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has already said that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will not rule out lifting the sanctions already on Russia for its meddling in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Trump, who still maintains Moscow is not necessarily behind the hacks, tweeted on Thursday morning, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”

Photo credit: MIKHAIL METZEL/AFP/GettyImages