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FBI Director: No Evidence Russia Successfully Hacked Trump Campaign

FBI Director James Comey
FBI Director James Comey

WASHINGTON -- Russian hackers targeted the U.S. Republican Party's national organization but did not succeed in intruding on the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump, FBI Director James Comey has told lawmakers.

Speaking alongside other top U.S. intelligence officials at a January 10 Senate hearing, Comey echoed conclusions from an intelligence community report released last week but also provided more details on the alleged Russian hacking campaign and its targets.

He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russian hackers successfully breached some Republican groups, some state-level campaigns, and outdated Republican National Committee (RNC) accounts ahead of the November 8 presidential election.

But he said that no evidence has been uncovered that Trump's campaign or current Republican Party systems were breached in what U.S. intelligence officials call a Russian influence campaign ordered by President Vladimir Putin that aimed to help Trump win the election.

"We did not develop any evidence that the Trump campaign or the current RNC was successfully hacked," Comey said.

Russia did succeed in collecting some information from Republican-affiliated targets but did not leak it to the public, Comey added, echoing the findings of the intelligence report.

Stolen Democratic Party e-mails published by WikiLeaks and others in the run-up to the election are widely seen as having damaged the campaign of Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton. U.S. intelligence accuses Russia of cyberattacks and "propaganda" that aimed to tilt the election toward Trump.

Skeptical Trump

Trump, who says he wants to improve relations with Moscow, has repeatedly questioned the U.S. intelligence findings on alleged Russian meddling in the campaign.

He has publicly acknowledged that Russia may have been behind the Democratic Party hacking but insists the cyberattacks had no impact on the election's outcome.

Intelligence officials say there is no evidence that Russia tampered with the vote tally but that it cannot assess the degree to which possible Russian influence affected the overall election.

The assessment released last week was ordered by President Barack Obama, who steps down from office on January 20.

The declassified version of the report released to the public has come under fire from critics because it did not present smoking-gun evidence of Russia's alleged role in the cyberattacks.

Intelligence officials say they cannot publicly reveal the sources and methods they used to reach those conclusions.

The Kremlin denies any involvement, and Trump has repeatedly downplayed Russia's alleged role in the hacking campaign.

Responding to questions from senators, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that Russian officials initially doubted that Trump -- a businessman and former reality TV star who had never held public office -- could defeat Clinton in the presidential election.

"They thought he was a fringe candidate," Clapper said.

He said that in "July or August," Russian government officials believed that Clinton, a sharp critic of Putin, would win the election.

"Sometime after that," Clapper added, Putin "shifted gears" and developed a preference for Trump.

With reporting by Reuters
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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.