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Poll: Most Americans (And Most Republicans) Say Russia Is Hacking Democrats

By Alana Wise

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Most Republicans believe Russia is attempting to influence the U.S. presidential election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, despite comments by the party’s nominee, Donald Trump, downplaying the possibility.

Some 55 percent of U.S. adults, including 51 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats, said they thought Russia was trying to tip the scales in the Nov. 8 presidential election, according to the survey.

Most American adults – 62 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans – think Putin is supporting Trump for the White House, the poll found.

Some 71 percent of those who suspect Russia of meddling believe Moscow is doing so through the recent hacks of Democratic emails, according to the Oct. 18-24 survey. But 57 percent of those who suspect Russian interference also believe Trump has “no involvement in Russia’s release of unflattering information” on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

The U.S. government has accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks targeting the Democratic Party that has led to the release of thousands of illegally obtained emails, revealing the sometimes unflattering inner workings of the party, Clinton’s campaign, and her family’s charitable foundation.

Clinton has said she believes the Kremlin is trying to help Trump, calling her rival a “puppet” of the Russian leader. Trump has declined to implicate the country in any wrongdoing.

“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the (Democratic National Committee),” Trump said during the first presidential debate last month. He suggested the culprit could be anyone from Russia, to China or even “a 400-pound person lying in bed.”

Russia has denied it sponsors or encourages hacking activity. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused U.S. politicians on Thursday of whipping up “hysteria” about a nonexistent threat in order to distract voters.

Putin, who has described Trump as “very talented,” said on Thursday the New York businessman “behaves extravagantly” to “get through to voters’ hearts.”

Trump has said he is not close with Putin, but has also said he believes the Russian president is a stronger leader than U.S. President Barack Obama.

Already chilly relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated over disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

U.S. officials say U.S. agencies have concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies – the military’s GRU and the civilian foreign intelligence agency, the FSB – are behind U.S. political hacking, particularly that directed against Democratic Party organizations and individuals.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English, and included 2,008 American adults. It had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points.

(Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he addresses students during his visit to German Embassy school in Moscow, Russia, June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

Clinton To Press Trump To Spell Out Policy Plans In U.S. Presidential Debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Hillary Clinton will press Republican Donald Trump to provide more specifics on his policies in their presidential debate on Monday, two top Clinton campaign aides said ahead of a face-off that could set U.S. television audience records.

On the eve of the debate at Hofstra University in suburban New York, aides to Clinton have sought to cast Trump, a New York businessman and former reality TV host, as lacking the temperament and experience to serve as president.

Trump’s aides for their part have sought to reinforce voter doubts about Clinton’s trustworthiness.

The debate, the first of three face-to-face matchups between the two candidates, will begin at 9 p.m. on Monday (0100 GMT on Tuesday). It comes as opinion polls show a tight race between Clinton, a former secretary of state, and Trump, six weeks before the November 8 election.

“We’re going to have a lot of people really tuning into this election for the first time. They’re going to see these two candidates onstage,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said on Sunday in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” “I think they’re going to see that Donald Trump is unfit, unprepared, and over his head. I doubt he will have a command of the issues.”

Mook said Clinton would challenge Trump at the debate “to reveal what his plans are. You know, for example, he has not revealed any plan whatsoever to defeat ISIS (Islamic State) militants.”

Trump has said he would work closely with NATO allies to defeat Islamic State and vowed to wage a “military, cyber and financial” war against the militant group.

“Donald Trump’s been all about himself. But she’s got to tell people what she wants to do for them,” John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s campaign, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, in a separate “This Week” interview on Sunday, attacked Clinton’s trustworthiness.

“You know, if you’re running against a Clinton, veracity is certainly always on the table,” she said. “Hillary Clinton’s casual relationship with the truth is well known to Americans. I’m sure we’ll see it on full display tomorrow night.”

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

The Trump campaign put to rest on Sunday the prospect that he might invite Gennifer Flowers, who had an affair with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, to attend the debate.

After Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a Clinton supporter and vociferous critic of Trump, tweeted that he had a “front-row” seat to watch the Hofstra debate, Trump raised the possibility in a tweet of inviting Flowers to the debate.

But Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, told “Fox News Sunday” that Flowers would not attend the debate.

“Donald Trump was using the tweet yesterday really to mock an effort by Hillary Clinton and her campaign to really distract attention from what the American people are going to be focused on tomorrow night, which is on the issues, on the choice that we face,” Pence said.

Supporters of both candidates sought to manage expectations before the debate.

Mook said the moderator of Monday’s debate, NBC News anchor Lester Holt, should fact-check candidates’ statements, although Trump’s campaign said it should be up to American voters to gauge who they thought was telling the truth.

To prepare for the debate, Clinton has been holding mock debate sessions where longtime aide Philippe Reines plays the role of Trump.

Trump aides said their candidate, who like Clinton participated in numerous TV debates during their respective parties’ nominating races, was preparing for Monday’s event but not doing mock debates where someone plays the role of Clinton.

Trump’s advisers said the Republican presidential nominee was going up against a highly seasoned politician.

“He’s the outsider, he’s a person who has never run before, let alone be in a presidential debate, but he’s going to be ready,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. “And I think one of the things Donald Trump has going for him is he’s got very good instincts.”

(Additional reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney)

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talks with a member of her staff inside of her campaign plane as she flies back to White Plains, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria