Senate panel backs assessment that Russia interfered in 2016

FILE - In this June 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to participate in a group photo at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. An odd new front in the U.S.-Russian rivalry has emerged as a Russian military cargo plane bearing a load of urgently needed medical supplies landed in New Yorks JFK airport. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this June 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin walk to participate in a group photo at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. An odd new front in the U.S.-Russian rivalry has emerged as a Russian military cargo plane bearing a load of urgently needed medical supplies landed in New Yorks JFK airport. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday affirms the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a far-ranging influence campaign approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin and aimed at helping Donald Trump win the White House.

The report rejects Trump's claims that the intelligence community was biased against him when it concluded that Russia had interfered on his behalf in the election. It says instead that intelligence officials had specific information that Russia preferred Trump in the election, that it sought to denigrate Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and that Putin had “approved and directed aspects" of the Kremlin's influence campaign.

The heavily-redacted report from the Senate Intelligence Committee is part of the panel’s more than three-year investigation into Russian interference. Intelligence agencies concluded in January 2017 that Russians had engaged in cyber-espionage and distributed messages through Russian-controlled propaganda outlets to undermine public faith in the democratic process, hurt Clinton and aid Trump, who ultimately became president.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the assessment, which was also endorsed by former special counsel Robert Mueller in his report last year. Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic,” but he did not allege a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement that his panel “found no reason to dispute” the intelligence community’s conclusions, saying they reflected strong tradecraft and analytical reasoning.

He said the agencies’ conclusion that such election interference is “the new normal” has been borne out in the three years since it was published.

“With the 2020 presidential election approaching, it’s more important than ever that we remain vigilant against the threat of interference from hostile foreign actors,” Burr said.

The Senate report calls the agencies' assessment an "impressive accomplishment” and endorses its core conclusions that Russia had interfered on a grand scale in the election and that Putin directed the interference.