The Russian government used espionage to interfere in the 2016 United States elections with the goals of sabotaging the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, boosting the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, and increasing political and social discord in the United States. According to the U.S. intelligence community, the operation—code named Project Lakhta —was ordered directly by Russian president Vladimir Putin. The 448-page Mueller report, made public in April 2019, examined over 200 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials but concluded that there was insufficient evidence to bring any conspiracy or coordination charges against Trump or his associates.
|Part of 2016 U.S. presidential election|
|Date||May 2014 – November 8, 2016|
|Also known as||Project Lakhta|
First Lady of the United States
U.S. Senator from New York
U.S. Secretary of State
The Internet Research Agency (IRA), based in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and described as a troll farm, created thousands of social media accounts that purported to be Americans supporting radical political groups and planned or promoted events in support of Trump and against Clinton. They reached millions of social media users between 2013 and 2017. Fabricated articles and disinformation were spread from Russian government-controlled media, and promoted on social media. Additionally, computer hackers affiliated with the Russian military intelligence service (GRU) infiltrated information systems of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Clinton campaign officials, notably chairman John Podesta, and publicly released stolen files and emails through DCLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, and WikiLeaks during the election campaign. Several individuals connected to Russia contacted various Trump campaign associates, offering business opportunities to the Trump Organization and proffering damaging information on Clinton. Russian government officials have denied involvement in any of the hacks or leaks.
Russian interference activities triggered strong statements from U.S. intelligence agencies, a direct warning by then-U.S. president Barack Obama to Russian president Vladimir Putin, renewed economic sanctions against Russia, and closures of Russian diplomatic facilities and expulsion of their staff. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees conducted their own investigations into the matter. Trump denied the interference had occurred, contending that it was a "hoax" perpetrated by the Democratic Party to explain Clinton's loss.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened the Crossfire Hurricane investigation of Russian interference in July 2016, including a special focus on links between Trump associates and Russian officials and spies and suspected coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Russian attempts to interfere in the election were first disclosed publicly by members of the United States Congress in September 2016, confirmed by US intelligence agencies in October 2016, and further detailed by the Director of National Intelligence office in January 2017. The dismissal of James Comey, the FBI director, by President Trump in May 2017, was partly because of Comey's investigation of the Russian interference.
The FBI's work was taken over in May 2017 by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who led a special counsel investigation until March 2019. Mueller concluded that Russian interference was "sweeping and systematic" and "violated U.S. criminal law", and he indicted twenty-six Russian citizens and three Russian organizations. The investigation also led to indictments and convictions of Trump campaign officials and associated Americans, on unrelated charges. The Special Counsel's report, made public in April 2019, examined numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials but concluded that, though the Trump campaign welcomed the Russian activities and expected to benefit from them, there was insufficient evidence to bring any conspiracy or coordination charges against Trump or his associates.
The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee investigation submitted the first in their five-volume 1,313-page report in July 2019. The committee concluded that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment alleging Russian interference was "coherent and well-constructed". The first volume also concluded that the assessment was "proper", learning from analysts that there was "no politically motivated pressure to reach specific conclusions". The final and fifth volume, which was the result of three years of investigations, was released in August 2020, ending one of the United States "highest-profile congressional inquiries". The Committee report found that the Russian government had engaged in an "extensive campaign" to sabotage the election in favor of Trump, which included assistance from some of Trump's own advisers.
In November 2020, newly released passages from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report indicated that "Although WikiLeaks published emails stolen from the DNC in July and October 2016 and Stone—a close associate to Donald Trump—appeared to know in advance the materials were coming, investigators 'did not have sufficient evidence' to prove active participation in the hacks or knowledge that the electronic thefts were continuing."
Oops something went wrong: