WASHINGTON • Russia used Republican political operative Paul Manafort and the WikiLeaks website to try to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 election, a Republican-led Senate committee has said in its final review of the matter.
WikiLeaks played a key role in Russia’s effort to assist Republican Mr Trump’s campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton and likely knew it was helping Russian intelligence, said the 966-page report released on Tuesday, which is likely to be the most definitive public account of the 2016 election controversy.
The report found President Vladimir Putin personally directed the Russian efforts to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Mrs Clinton.
Asked about the report at an event in Yuma, Arizona, Mr Trump said: “I don’t know anything about it. I didn’t read it.”
“It’s all a hoax,” Mr Trump told reporters.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence alleged Manafort collaborated with Russians, including oligarch Oleg Deripaska and “Russian intelligence officer” Konstantin Kilimnik, before, during and after the election.
The panel found Manafort’s role and proximity to Mr Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence, saying his “high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services… represented a grave counter-intelligence threat”.
It was not clear what effect, if any, the report might have on the current presidential campaign.
Mr Trump will face Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Nov 3.
Russia’s alleged election interference, which Moscow denies, sparked a two-year-long US investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
In a report released last year, Mr Mueller found no conclusive evidence of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Mr Trump and his supporters have consistently bristled at suggestions that foreign interference helped him pull off his upset victory in 2016.
Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said Mr Trump welcomed Russian assistance in 2016 “with open arms”.
“Donald Trump may believe that the Russian government should have a say in our elections, but it is for the American people to decide,” he added.
WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, published thousands of e-mails hacked from Mrs Clinton’s campaign and a top campaign aide in the weeks before the 2016 election, yielding a drumbeat of negative coverage about the Democrat.
As Russian military intelligence and WikiLeaks released the hacked documents, the report said Mr Trump’s campaign sought advance notice, devised messaging strategies to amplify them “and encouraged further theft of information and… leaks”.
“The Trump campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack-and-leak campaign to Russia and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort,” the report added.
Sentenced last year to 71/2 years in jail, 71-year-old Manafort was released in May to home confinement to protect him from the coronavirus threat. Mr Trump has repeatedly suggested he could pardon Manafort.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE