Senate Intel Committee Affirms What Barr Refuses to Acknowledge

On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republican Richard Burr, released the second volume of their bipartisan three year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. While the committee’s first report focused on the hacking of election systems, this one zeroed in on the role of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and their use of social media. Here is the most significant finding.

The Committee found, that the IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin…where the Intelligence Community assessed that the Russian government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” the Committee found that IRA social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump, and to the detriment.of Secretary Clinton’s campaign.

That affirms the conclusions of the Mueller report.

As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfere in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.

While Donald Trump has both acknowledged and denied Russian interference in the 2016 election, he is now focused on shifting attention to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered to support Clinton. But Attorney General William Barr has launched an investigation into the origins of the FBI probe and is traveling the globe to pressure our allies into supporting his own agenda. While it has been difficult to determine Barr’s intentions, Natasha Bertrand suggested two.

* examining the intelligence community’s role in the Russia probe—and, in accordance with Trump’s desires, looking at whether the help provided by U.S. allies in the Russia probe, including the U.K., Italy, Australia and Ukraine, may itself have constituted foreign interference, and

* the question of how the intelligence community determined that Russia intervened specifically to help Trump win rather than to just sow chaos and distrust in the Democratic process.

I have noted that, in his public statements, Barr has gone out of his way to avoid saying that Russia interfered in the election in order to support Trump. In his four-page summary of the Mueller report, this is what the attorney general wrote.

The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election…

The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks.

Comparing that to what Mueller wrote, it is clear that Barr left out the statement that the Russian social media campaign “favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

Here is what the attorney general said during a press conference on the day he released the Mueller report.

[T]he report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.

Once again, he left out the fact that the social media campaign was designed to support Trump and disparage Clinton. It is clear that those are not insignificant omissions. The Mueller investigation found that, when it was announced that Trump had won the election, someone whose name is redacted sent a message to Russian oligarch Kirill Dmitriev which simply said, “Putin has won.” We now learn that IRA operatives raised a glass in celebration.

Messages obtained by the Senate Intelligence Committee showed IRA operatives celebrating Trump’s victory. After the elction, one operative wrote, “We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne … took one gulp each and looked into each other’s eyes. …. We uttered almost in unison: ‘We made America great.'”

While it is impossible to accurately calibrate the impact Russian interference had on the outcome of the election, it is obvious that these Russians thought that they had helped Trump win the presidency. That is something that neither Trump nor Barr are willing to acknowledge because it raises questions about the legitimacy of the 2016 election.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.