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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that as the 2016 presidential campaign drew on, Russian government officials devoted increasing attention to assisting Donald Trump’s effort to win the election, the U.S. official familiar with the finding told Reuters on Friday night on condition of anonymity.

Citing U.S. officials briefed on the matter, the Washington Post reported on Friday that intelligence agencies had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to WikiLeaks.

U.S. President Barack Obama ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election and deliver a report before he leaves office on Jan. 20, the White House said on Friday.

Obama’s homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters the report’s results would be shared with lawmakers and others.

“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process … and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress,” she said during an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

As summer turned to fall, Russian hackers turned almost all their attention to the Democrats. Virtually all the emails they released publicly were potentially damaging to Clinton and the Democrats, the official told Reuters.

“That was a major clue to their intent,” the official said. “If all they wanted to do was discredit our political system, why publicize the failings of just one party, especially when you have a target like Trump?”

A second official familiar with the report said the intelligence analysts’ conclusion about Russia’s motives does not mean the intelligence community believes that Moscow’s efforts altered or significantly affected the outcome of the election.

Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the U.S. election.

A CIA spokeswoman said the agency had no comment on the matter.

The hacked emails passed to WikiLeaks were a regular source of embarrassment to the Clinton campaign during the race for the presidency.

U.S. intelligence analysts have assessed “with high confidence” that at some point in the extended presidential campaign Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government had decided to try to bolster Trump’s chances of winning.

The Russians appear to have concluded that Trump had a shot at winning and that he would be much friendlier to Russia than Clinton would be, especially on issues such as maintaining economic sanctions and imposing additional ones, the official said.

Moscow is launching a similar effort to influence the next German election, following an escalating campaign to promote far-right and nationalist political parties and individuals in Europe that began more than a decade ago, the official said.

In both cases, said the official, Putin’s campaigns in both Europe and the United States are intended to disrupt and discredit the Western concept of democracy by promoting extremist candidates, parties, and political figures.

In October, the U.S. government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. Obama has said he warned Putin about consequences for the attacks.

Trump has said he is not convinced Russia was behind the cyber attacks. His transition team issued a statement on “claims of foreign interference in U.S. elections” on Friday but did not directly address the issue.

“I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump told Time magazine about Russia in an interview published this week. “That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.'”

(Writing by David Alexander and John Walcott, additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Robert Birsel and Louise Heavens)

IMAGE: Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks speaks via video link during a press conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

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Rep. Bennie Thompson

Photo by Customs and Border Protection (Public domain)

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Friday afternoon announced the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack has issued subpoenas to 14 Republicans from seven states who submitted the forged and "bogus" Electoral College certificates falsely claiming Donald Trump and not Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election in their states.

The Chairman appeared to suggest the existence of a conspiracy as well, noting the "the planning and coordination of efforts," saying "these so-called alternate electors met," and may know "who was behind that scheme."

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Chris Cuomo

News Literacy Week 2022, an annual awareness event started by the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to making everyone “smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy” has closed out. From January 24 to 28, classes, webinars, and Twitter chats taught students and adults how to root out misinformation when consuming news media.
There’s no downplaying the importance of understanding what is accurate in the media. These days, news literacy is a survival tactic. One study estimated that at least 800 people died because they embraced a COVID falsehood — and that inquiry was conducted in the earliest months of the pandemic. About 67 percent of the unvaccinated believe at least one COVID-19 myth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It’s not that accurate information isn’t available; people are rejecting reports of vaccine efficacy and safety because they distrust the news media. A third of Americans polled by Gallup said they have no trust at all in mass media; another 27 percent don’t have much at all.
Getting people to believe information presented to them depends more on trust than it does on the actual data being shared. That is, improving trust isn’t an issue of improving reporting. It’s an issue of improving relationships with one’s audience.
And that’s the real news problem right now; some celebrity anchors at cable news outlets are doing little to strengthen their relationships with their audiences and a lot to strengthen their relationships with government officials.
The most obvious example is how CNN terminated Prime Time anchor Chris Cuomo last month for his failure to disclose the entirety of his role in advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the sexual harassment accusation that unfolded in Albany, a scandal that eventually led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.
But there are others. Just this month, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol revealed that another anchor on another cable news network, Laura Ingraham of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows last January, advising Meadows how Trump should react to reports of possible armed protests at state capitols around the country. This revelation followed the story that Sean Hannity, host of the eponymous news hour at Fox News, also texted Meadows with advice last year.
And while he didn't advise a government official, CNN anchor Don Lemon revealed information not available to the public when he texted embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett to tip him off about the Chicago Police Department’s wavering faith in his story about an assault. That’s from Smollett’s own sworn testimony.
When English philosopher Edmund Burke joked about the press being the Fourth Estate — in addition to the First, Second and Third (the clergy, nobility and commoners, respectively) — his point was that, despite their influence on each other, these “estates” — bastions of power — are supposed to be separate.
The Fourth Estate will always be an essential counterweight to government. But, since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, we’ve been so focused on stopping an executive branch from pressing the press to support an administration's agenda — either by belittling journalists or threatening to arrest them for doing their jobs — that we’ve ignored the ways that it affects and influences other Estates, and not necessarily through its reporting.
That is, we have news personalities-cum-reporters who are influencing government policy — and not telling us about it until it’s too late.
The United States has fostered an incredible closeness between the Second Estate — which in 2021 and 2022 would be political leaders — and the Fourth Estate. About a year ago, an Axios reporter had to be reassigned because she was dating one of President Biden’s press secretaries. Last year, James Bennet, the former editorial page editor of the New York Times and brother of Colorado Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Michael Bennet, had to recuse himself publicly from the Gray Lady’s endorsement process. In 2013, the Washington Post reported at least eight marriages between Obama officials and established journalists.
To be clear, there aren’t any accusations that anyone just mentioned engaged in anything other than ethical behavior. But I, for one, don’t believe that James and Michael Bennet didn’t discuss Michael’s campaign. I don’t think the Axios reporter and her West Wing-employed boyfriend — or any journalists and their federally employed spouses, for that matter — didn’t share facts that the public will never know. Such is the nature of family and intimacy.
And as long as those conversations don’t affect the coverage of any news events, there’s nothing specifically, technically wrong with them. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t damaging.
As these stories show, when we don’t know about these advisor roles, at least not until someone other than the journalist in question exposes them, it causes a further erosion of trust in news media.
What’s foolish about the Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon improprieties is that they don't necessarily need to be the problem they’ve become. Cuomo’s show contained opinion content like 46 percent of CNN’s programming. An active debate rages on as to whether Fox News is all opinion and whether or not it can rightly even be called opinion journalism since its shows are so studded with inaccuracies and lies.
What that means is that Cuomo, Ingraham, Hannity, and Lemon are allowed to take a stand as opinion journalists; Cuomo and Lemon never really worked under a mandate of objectivity and Ingraham and Hannity likely wouldn’t honor it if they did. Indeed, a certain subjectivity — and explaining how it developed for the journalist — is part of an opinion journalist’s craft. To me, little of these consulting roles would be problematic if any of these anchors had just disclosed them and the ways they advised the people they cover.
But they didn’t. Instead, the advice they dispensed to government employees and celebrities was disclosed by a third party and news of it contributes to the public’s distrust in the media. While personal PR advisory connections between journalists and politicians haven’t been pinpointed as a source of distrust, they may have an effect. Almost two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research poll said they attributed what they deemed unfair coverage to a political agenda on the part of the news organization. No one has rigorously examined the ways in which individual journalists can swing institutional opinion so it may be part of the reason why consumers are suspicious of news.
Cleaning up ex post facto is both a violation of journalistic ethics and ineffective. Apologies and corrections after the fact don't always improve media trust. In other credibility contests, like courtroom battles, statements against one’s interests enhance a person’s believability. But that’s not necessarily true of news; a 2015 study found that corrections don’t automatically enhance a news outlet’s credibility.
It’s a new adage for the 21st century: It’s not the consulting; it’s the cover-up. Journalists need to disclose their connections to government officials — up front — to help maintain trust in news media. Lives depend on it.

Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.


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