For those of you wondering why I recently took an impassioned interest in defending the Electoral College, the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian meddling in the recent U.S. elections explains my combative stance.
Whether intending to elect or defeat a foreign candidate or cause, influencing elections is an old game played globally by both Russian and U.S. intelligence agencies. Destabilizing institutions and reducing confidence in government are often key components. The ICA acknowledges that "Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on U.S. presidential elections" and that recent efforts, including "press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin" were an escalated use of existing techniques.
For many us familiar with Russian tradecraft, the Bear's paw prints were abundant and easily visible months before the election.
Omitting classified supporting evidence that would reveal methods and sources, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Security Agency (NSA) cooperated to draft the ICA. Their joint conclusion -- based on evidence known by 29 December 2016 and offered with generally high confidence -- was that Russian hacking, along with propaganda and disinformation efforts (including the creation and dissemination of fake news), were undertaken with the direct knowledge and approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials. The Russian effort, initially designed to "denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency" and eventually included efforts to "help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him" (about this last assertion, the NSA offered only moderate versus high confidence).
The Russian effort was part of a continuing and "longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order" by undermining "public faith in the U.S. democratic process." (continued... (more)