Quora Question: Did Russia hack the 2016 election?

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A mural of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Belgrade, Serbia, December 4. Cynthia Dion-Schwarz writes that for the intelligence agencies to reveal substantial evidence could compromise the source and result in future intelligence losses or even the loss of life. Thus, such intelligence could never be revealed to the public. Marko Djurica/reuters

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Answer from William Murphy, Professor of American history:

There does not appear to be evidence that Russia hacked the results of the 2016 presidential election. That is, there is not evidence that they broke into voting machines and changed the vote counts.

What there is evidence of is that, during the campaign, there were consistent and repeated cyber attacks on various institutions associated with the campaign. At least two states reported intrusions into their voter registration databases. The Democratic National Committee was hacked, and damaging emails were recovered and released to Wikileaks. John Podesta, Clinton's campaign manager, had his email account hacked, and damaging information was again released to Wikileaks. And Russian-sponsored actors appear to have been involved in efforts to spread anti-Clinton and pro-Trump propaganda on social media and the internet.

These things, collectively, were an attempt to influence the election, not directly change it.

According to published reports, by September the CIA was so certain that this was happening that they arranged a briefing for top Congressional leaders in both parties. They wanted to make public the evidence they had uncovered, and the Obama administration wanted a bipartisan effort to denounce and resist these efforts. Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Majority Leader, refused, saying he found the evidence inconclusive and that if Obama pushed the issue too hard in public he'd denounce it as a partisan attempt to swing the election to Clinton.

You can read the details here: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House.

The CIA and seventeen other intelligence agencies have concluded that this was happening with a high degree of certainty, and that the goal was to help elect Trump. However, the FBI disagrees with part of that conclusion, arguing that while there may have been Russian interference, they are less clear that it was intended to specifically help Trump. So the FBI accepts that it was Russia that was behind the hacking; they just are much less willing to say it was part of a strategy to elect Trump, rather than to just sow chaos or undermine public confidence in the electoral system. FBI and CIA give differing accounts to lawmakers on Russia's motives in 2016 hacks.

How certain are we that Russia "Hacked" the 2016 Presidential Election to be favorable to Donald Trump? originally appeared on Quora—the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Quora Question: Did Russia hack the 2016 election? | Opinion