The top intelligence agency in the US has concluded that Russia played a covert role in the 2016 presidential elections to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Donald Trump win the White House, according to reports.
The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) 'assessment' was carried by the Washington Post and New York Times on Saturday, provoking a strong reaction from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.
"These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Trump's transition team said in a statement after the reports were published.
"The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again.'"
The fierce rebuke from the Trump’s camp has cast doubts over his future relationship with the CIA on which the US administrations mostly depend for assessments concerning potential threats faced by the country.
Trump's dismissal of CIA report fits into broader trend of fostering distrust of all institutions. 1st media, then electoral sys, now intel.
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) December 10, 2016
The reports cited US officials, briefed by the CIA on the matter, as saying that individuals with connections to Moscow provided the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks with emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chief and others.
The reports on Saturday follow US President Barack Obama's order to review all cyber attacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle.
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," the Washington Post quoted a senior US official, briefed on an intelligence presentation along with other lawmakers, as saying.
CIA agents told the lawmakers it was "quite clear" that favouring Trump was Russia's goal, according to officials who spoke to the Post, citing growing evidence from multiple sources.
However, some questions remain unanswered, the newspaper said.
For example, intelligence agents don't have proof that Russian officials directed the identified individuals to supply WikiLeaks with the hacked Democratic emails.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied links with Russia's government.