Russia tried to meddle in elections, favored Trump over Clinton

Intelligence sources have confirmed to CBS News’ Jeff Pegues that U.S. officials believe Russia not only tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, but also favored President-elect Donald Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Intelligence officials have been building toward this conclusion for some time.   

President Obama has ordered a full review of any hacking that targeted the presidential election during the course of the campaign, in order “to capture lessons learned,” for a range of stakeholders, White House Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco said earlier Friday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

The review is to be completed before Mr. Obama leaves office.

But that is expected only to make official what U.S. intelligence officials have known for several weeks.

The White House declined to comment to CBS News.  

However, Mr. Trump’s transition team dismissed the conclusions of the intelligence officials. 

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the transition team said in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

The president-elect also denied the intelligence community’s findings in an interview published in Time magazine this week.

“I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say ‘oh, Russia interfered.’”

Though he didn’t rule out Russian involvement, Mr. Trump suggested there were others who might be culpable.

“It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey,” he told Time. “I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals.”

But even as early as October, the U.S. intelligence community was confident the Russian government had directed hacks to influence the presidential election. 

The email disclosures by WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and Guccifer 2.0 during the campaign were consistent with the methods of Russian-directed efforts. Further, they suggested that people high up within the Kremlin were involved -- “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the director of national intelligence said in an October statement.

Just before the Democratic convention, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) suffered a massive hack that resulted in the release of politically damaging emails that suggested a bias by the party against Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primary. Several officials, including DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, lost their jobs over the leak.

CBS News’ Andres Triay reports that at this point in the transition period, Mr. Trump is receiving intelligence briefings about once a week -- this is his choice. As is customary, the briefings are being tailored to his schedule.