Senior Russian officials celebrated Donald Trump's election victory last month as a win for Moscow, based on communications intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies — leading officials to conclude the Kremlin meddled in the process to try to help Trump secure the White House, according to news reports.
"The Russians felt pretty good about what happened on Nov. 8 and they also felt pretty good about what they did," one senior U.S. official told The Washington Post on Thursday.
Russian officials "were as surprised as the rest of the world," a second American official said.
Both officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on intelligence issues.
"In this case, you do learn things after the fact based on how they feel about it," the first official told The Post, adding the communications added to the intelligence community's "shifting level of confidence" of Russia's role in the election.
The disclosure of the communications comes as a 50-page classified report on Russian hacking in the 2016 election was delivered Thursday by intelligence officials to President Barack Obama, The Post reported.
The document, ordered by Obama, was prepared by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan.
They are expected to present the report to Trump on Friday in New York. A declassified version is expected to be released to the public next week.
In response to the submission of the classified report, which also was disclosed by NBC News, Trump said on Twitter:
Besides detailing Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the report also "catalogues other cyber operations by Moscow against U.S. election systems over the past nine years," according to The Post.
In addition, the document discloses the "actors" who provided emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and other party operations were provided to WikiLeaks.
The U.S. officials, however, declined to tell The Post whether the intercepted communications were included in the classified report.
They also cautioned, while the messages were seen as strong indicators of the Kremlin's intent and obvious preference for Trump, they were not regarded as definitive evidence of Russia's efforts to help the Republican win in November.
"There are a variety of different exhibits that make the case, different factors that have provided the intelligence community with high confidence" Russia sought to help elect Trump, another top U.S. official told The Post.
Officials further emphasized that such "signals intelligence" is generally treated with caution because statements can be taken out of context, and Russia and other adversaries are skilled at spreading disinformation.
The Post's report came hours after Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia's cyberattacks went beyond interference and into "activism."
Top Republicans have called for an independent investigation into Russian hacking — and Democrat Hillary Clinton charged throughout the campaign the Kremlin interfered in the election.
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