US election hacking: Russia hits back at ‘unfounded’ allegations

Russia says US allegations that it engaged in hacking during the American presidential election are "unfounded" and amount to nothing more than a "full-scale witch hunt."

The accusations, which were published in last week's US intelligence report, claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

The campaign — which consisted of hacking Democratic groups and individuals, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and releasing that information via third-party websites, including WikiLeaks — amounted to what the intelligence report called "a significant escalation" in longtime Russian efforts to undermine "the US-led liberal democratic order."

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the charges against Russia "were not backed by anything" and were "made on a very amateur, emotional level."

"What we see is … that all of this looks like is a full-scale witch hunt," he said. "We understand that our US colleagues, during various stages of their history, have gone through such witch hunts."

"We remember these stages of history, we know that they are replaced with more sober experts, more sober approaches that are after all aimed at a dialogue, not at emotional fits," Peskov added.

"Categorically Reject" Accusations

"We still don't know what data have been used by those who come up with these unfounded accusations," Peskov told reporters during a conference call.

"We still categorically reject any involvement of Moscow, any involvement of official and unofficial persons in the Russian Federation in the hacker attacks," he said.

The report was the first official, full and public accounting by the US intelligence community of its assessment of Russian cyberhacking activities during the 2016 campaign and the motivations behind that hacking.

"We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report said.

How Trump's face-off with spy chiefs came to a head
Russian intel provided info to WikiLeaks

The report also stated that Moscow used a variety of tactics in a bid to sway the outcome. "Moscow's influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations — such as cyberactivity — with overt efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users or 'trolls'," the report found.

US intelligence officials also assessed "with high confidence" that the GRU Russian intelligence agency "used the Guccifer 2.0 persona,, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyberoperations publicly."

The intelligence community also assessed "with high confidence" that the GRU provided WikiLeaks with the material they obtained from hacking the Democratic National Committee and top Democratic officials.

Trump's take

The report, which was commissioned by President Barack Obama, comes as the president-elect Trump has continued to resist the US intelligence community's conclusions that Russia was responsible for the hacking and that it aimed to help his campaign.

Trump was briefed Friday on the report by top US intelligence and law enforcement officials, and while he said he had "a constructive meeting," he declined to publicly agree with their conclusions.

Instead, he stressed that "there was absolutely no effect on the outcome (of the election) whatsoever," an assertion which the US intelligence community stated in its report it was not in a position to assess.

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