Despite what has been said over the past week, there is no grand disagreement within the intelligence community about one of the motivations behind Russia’s intervention in the U.S. presidential election: everyone believes Moscow was trying to help Donald Trump get elected. This agreement within the intelligence community was made clear in a message that CIA Director John Brennan sent to employees Friday, which was first reported by the Washington Post but then confirmed by numerous outlets. After meeting with FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper the conclusion is that “there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election,” Brennan wrote to employees.
An intelligence source tells NPR sources say that media reports that claimed there was some sort of deep disagreement between the CIA and FBI on the issue were really blowing things out of proportion. “A game of telephone on Capitol Hill led to a conflict narrative,” the source said. “There’s no gulf here. The facts are the same.” The Washington Post notes the narrative is due to the fact that the FBI counterintelligence official who briefed lawmakers was not as categorical as his or her CIA counterpart but their positions weren’t really that different to begin with. President-Elect Donald Trump had emphasized reports of the disagreements within the intelligence community to raise questions about the credibility of the hacking claims.
It seems the reports of disagreement were really due to a question of emphasis. The intelligence sources say everyone is on the same page that Russia’s hacking had multiple purposes and wasn’t just to get Trump into the White House. “Mostly they wanted to build uncertainty and challenge faith in the American election system,” one official tells NBC News.
Brennan said he had been briefing lawmakers on the intelligence findings but not all of them “understand and appreciate the importance and the gravity of the issue,” he wrote. For now though, Brennan, Clapper, and Comey “all agree that our organizations, along with others, need to focus on completing the thorough review of this issue that has been directed by President Obama and which is being led by the DNI.”
At his news conference Friday, President Obama said that there was no way Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t know about the election-season hacking. “Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin knowing about it,” Obama said. “This happened at the highest levels of the Russian government.”
Moscow has scoffed at the suggestions that it meddled in the U.S. electoral process. “They should either stop talking about that, or produce some proof at last,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday. “Otherwise it all begins to look unseemly.”