A Senate intelligence committee panel on Tuesday released a bombshell report alleging that Russia used Republican political operative Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks to try to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help now-U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.
The nearly 1000-page report by the Republican-led panel said that Wikileaks – which published thousands of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton's campaign weeks before the election – “very likely knew it was assisting a Russian intelligence influence effort” and that the site and its founder Julian Assange benefited from Russian government support.
And as Russian military intelligence and WikiLeaks released the hacked documents, the report also alleged that Trump's campaign sought advance notice, devised messaging strategies to amplify them "and encouraged further theft of information and ... leaks."
The report also alleged that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort collaborated with Russians, before during and after the 2016 U.S. election.
The panel found Manafort's role and proximity to 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 counterintelligence threat."
It also concluded that President Vladimir Putin personally directed the Russian efforts to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Clinton.
The Senate intelligence committee report comes after a three-and-a-half year probe of allegations that Russia sought to help Trump defeat Clinton following the Mueller report.
The release also comes less than three months from the 2020 presidential election as Trump faces off against his rival Joe Biden, who is currently leading in public opinion polls.