Russian President Vladimir Putin likely directed efforts to try to swing the 2020 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump, according to an American intelligence report released by the Biden administration.
The 15-page report, released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, added heft to longstanding allegations that some of Trump's top lieutenants were playing into Moscow's hands by amplifying claims made against then-candidate Joe Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. It also added new findings that Putin either oversaw or at least approved of the election meddling to benefit Trump.
Washington is expected to impose sanctions on Moscow as soon as next week because of the allegations, three sources said on condition of anonymity.
In an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday, Biden said Putin will face consequences for the interference soon.
"He will pay a price," Biden said.
The findings about Putin's role are likely to receive particular attention given the report's conclusions that Russia-backed figures such as Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach enlisted unnamed U.S. political figures in their campaign to smear Biden and his son Hunter.
The report named Derkach, who met Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 2019, as someone whose movements were tracked, if not directed, by Putin.
"Putin had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach," the report said. "Other senior officials also participated in Russia's election influence efforts - including senior national security and intelligence officials who we assess would not act without receiving at least Putin's tacit approval."
Democrat Biden defeated Republican Trump and became president in January.
U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded that Russia also interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump's candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
The U.S. intelligence report also found other foreign attempts to sway American voters in 2020 including a "multi-pronged covert influence campaign" by Iran intended to undercut Trump. As president, Trump pulled the United States out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and imposed fresh sanctions.
The report also says China "did not deploy interference efforts" to support Biden's election.
"China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught," the report said.
U.S. officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to influence the election, although "in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran."
The Russian, Chinese and Cuban Embassies in Washington did not immediately return messages seeking comment. The Iranian mission to the United Nations and the Venezuelan Ministry of Information also did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Moscow, Beijing and Tehran routinely deny allegations of cyberespionage and election interference.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether sanctions would be imposed on Russia as early as next week, which was first reported by CNN.
The intelligence report assessed with high confidence that Russian leaders "preferred that former President Trump win re-election despite perceiving some of his administration's policies as anti-Russia."
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.