A Kremlin-backed think tank’s plan to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential race in Donald Trump’s favor was distributed at the highest levels of the Russian government, Reuters reported Wednesday.
A handful of current and former U.S. officials told Reuters that the first document, compiled by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies in June, urged the Kremlin to wage a propaganda war on social media and state-backed media outlets promoting a U.S. candidate who supported better relations with Russia. Another paper, released in October when pundits and polls were predicting a Hillary Clinton victory, argued in favor of promoting claims about voter fraud to stoke questions about the legitimacy of the election results.
President Vladimir Putin’s office appoints the retired Russian intelligence officials who work at the institute, according to Reuters.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the U.S. election, with Putin calling such allegations “lies” used to promote “domestic American political agendas.” The Institute and Kremlin did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
These documents are in line with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of how exactly Russia took steps to sway the election, which included the promotion of “fake news” stories, use of bots to push that false information, and cyber-hacking campaigns against Democratic targets. The Senate and House Intelligence Communities are currently investigating the extent of Russia’s interference into the presidential race, and whether Trump staffers collaborated with Russian officials to do so.
“Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official told Reuters.