Russia still interfering in elections, claims report

PUBLISHED: 08:44 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:49 21 February 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference in Moscow. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

Archant

Intelligence officials in America have claimed that Russia is still interfering in elections in 2020 - this time to get president Donald Trump re-elected.

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The New York Times said intelligence officials told parliamentarians about the interference in a closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee last week.

It said the disclosure angered Trump, who complained the Democrats would use the information against him, and then berated the outgoing director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, the next day.

The Times attributed the report to five unidentified people familiar with the matter.

US intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the 2016 election through social media campaigns and stealing and distributing emails from Democratic accounts.

They say Russia was trying to boost Trump's campaign and add chaos to the American political process.

Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded Russian interference was "sweeping and systematic" but did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump has doubted the findings of Russian interference.

The Times said in the House briefing Trump's allies challenged the DNI's chief election official, Shelby Pierson, who delivered the conclusions, saying Trump had been tough on Russia.

Yet Trump has also spoken warmly of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and has withdrawn troops from areas, including Syria, where Moscow could fill the vacuum.

The president delayed military aid last year to Russian adversary Ukraine - a move at the core of his impeachment proceedings.

The newspaper said Trump was angry the House briefing was made before the panel's chairman Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment proceedings.

Trump formally appointed Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and a loyal supporter, to replace Maguire as the new acting director of national intelligence.

Maguire was required to step down soon under federal law governing acting appointments.

The Times cited two administration officials as saying the timing, after the intelligence briefing, was coincidental.

A report into Russian interference in UK elections is still to be released, more than 100 days after the then chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament said it was ready.

Boris Johnson said he did not know when it would be released, with Number 10 blocking attempts by journalists to see communications surrounding the release of the report.

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