Update as of 3:30 p.m. ET – The Washington Post is now reporting that FBI Director James Comey has backed a CIA assessment that Russia intervened to help Donald Trump win the election over Hillary Clinton. The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., agreed with the assessment, the Post reported.
“Earlier this week, I met separately with (Director) FBI James Comey and DNI Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a message to CIA workers, according to the report.
FBI Director James Comey spoke to President-elect Donald Trump via telephone, telling him there was no credible evidence that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the presidential election—countering claims made by the CIA, according to an exclusive report from Townhall.
Reports—most notably, one published by the Washington Post earlier this week, citing unnamed sources within the CIA, as well as the Obama administration itself—have said Russia tried to influence the election to sway it in Trump’s favor.
According to Townhall, Comey told the president-elect that James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, agreed with the FBI’s assessment. Comey said the lone member within the U.S. intelligence community who embraced the assertion that Russians sanctioned the hacking to influence the election was the CIA and its director, John Brennan.
“And Brennan takes his marching orders from President Obama,” sources quoted the FBI director as saying.
Townhall, a conservative-leaning political website and news magazine, cited “sources who were briefed on Comey’s conversations with Trump” for its Dec. 14 report.
The sources told Townhall that Comey sees the leaks to The New York Times and the Washington Post about Russia’s alleged influence as a Democratic Party attempt to try and delegitimize Trump.
Comey also apparently said it’s not clear if the Russian government backed the hacking or if it was just Russian individuals acting on their own accord.
“It’s also unclear,” a source said, “why Putin would have preferred dealing with Donald Trump, who has promised a major military buildup, over Hillary Clinton, who would have continued Barack Obama’s cautious policies toward the Kremlin.”
As Reuters reported on Tuesday, three officials with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, said there’s evidence Russia carried out cyberattacks but added there is a lack of evidence that the Kremlin was trying to boost Trump over Clinton. “ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent,” said one of the three U.S. officials familiar with the ODNI. “Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”
About ten days before Election Day, Comey, in an unprecedented move, sent a letter to Congress saying that the FBI is reviewing new emails that pertained to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Then, the weekend before the election, he announced no charges will be recommended for Clinton, adding that the “FBI investigative team has been working around the clock to process and review a large volume of emails from a device obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation.”