U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic officials' email accounts in an attempt to interfere with the presidential campaign. The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA has concluded that Russia aimed specifically to help Donald Trump win the presidency.
Congressional officials briefed on the hack confirmed the Post's report to NBC News Saturday.
According to the Post, by mid-September, White House officials mulled over its approach to publicly blame Moscow without being accused of bolstering Clinton's campaign. Officials decided to seek bipartisan support and set up a secret meeting with the so-called Gang of 12 — a group of ranking members from the House and Senate — on intelligence and homeland security, the Post reported.
After administration officials laid out evidence allegedly showing Russia's role in cyber-intrusions against Democratic organizations and individuals, according to several U.S. officials, the consensus for action was split down party lines.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to the Post, citing officials, "raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics."
The Post said the CIA presented its assessment to senators last week. The newspaper's report cited anonymous U.S. officials who were briefed on that closed-door meeting.
The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations.
Trump's transition team, in a statement Friday night, dismissed the Post's report, noting that the CIA "are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."
"The election ended a long time ago. ... It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again,'" it added.
In the months leading up to the election, email accounts of Democratic Party officials and a top Hillary Clinton campaign aide were breached, emails leaked and embarrassing and private emails posted online. Many Democrats believe the hackings benefited Trump's bid. Trump has downplayed the possibility that Russia was involved.
President Barack Obama has ordered intelligence officials to conduct a broad review of election-season cyberattacks, the White House said Friday.
The review, led by intelligence agencies, will be a "deep dive" into a possible pattern of increased "malicious cyber activity" timed to the campaign season, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. The review will look at the tactics, targets, key actors and the U.S. government's response to the recent email hacks, as well as incidents reported in past elections, he said.
The president ordered up the report earlier this week and asked that it be completed before he leaves office next month, Schultz said.
"The president wanted this done under his watch because he takes it very seriously," he said. "We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections."
Schultz said the president sought the probe as a way of improving U.S. defense against cyberattacks and was not intending to question the legitimacy of Trump's victory.
"This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election," Schultz said.
Obama's move comes as Democratic lawmakers have been pushing Obama to declassify more information about Russia's role, fearing that Trump, who has promised a warmer relationship with Moscow, may not prioritize the issue.
Given Trump's statements, "there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee. If the administration doesn't respond "forcefully" to such actions, "we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future," he said.
The White House said it would make portions of the report public and would brief lawmakers and relevant state officials on the findings.
It emphasized the report would not focus solely on Russian operations or hacks involving Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Democratic National Committee accounts. Schultz stressed officials would be reviewing incidents going back to the 2008 presidential campaign, when the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Obama were breached by hackers.
Intelligence officials have said Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were targets of Chinese cyberattacks four years later.