Russia: US fueling 'witch hunt' with election hacking claims

Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump has been skeptical over claims that Russia was involved

Russia dismissed an intel report claiming that the Kremlin meddled with the U.S. presidential election, saying the accusations were "amateurishly emotional" and driving a "witch-hunt."

"There was nothing in this report that deserved to be read in detail," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

The U.S. intel report, published on Friday, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering a secret campaign meant to influence last year's presidential election.

The effort, which attempted to boost Donald Trump over rival Hillary Clinton, included hacks from Russian cyberspies that stole sensitive files from Democratic figures and groups. The files were later leaked to the public.

However, the declassified version of Friday’s intel report revealed no new evidence or sources proving the Kremlin's role in the election-related hacks.

The Kremlin’s spokesman criticized this lack of evidence. Moscow "is observing a serious fatigue with these accusations," Peskov reportedly said. "The published part arouses nothing but disappointment."

The Russian government has repeatedly denied any connection with the hacks. President-electTrump has also remained skeptical over claims that the Kremlin was involved.

On Friday, U.S. intelligence leaders briefed Trump over their findings, but he withheld any explicit endorsement agreeing that Russia was behind the hacks.

Instead, Trump focused on his view that no hacking effort – from any country – had managed to tamper with election’s outcome.

"Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results," he tweeted on Friday. "Voting machines not touched!"

Friday's U.S. intel report didn’t assess whether the alleged Russian effort affected the election outcome. But the report did claim that Russian spies accessed elements of U.S. state and local electoral boards, although none of those involved vote tallying.

Coinciding with the U.S. intel report, the Department of Homeland Security on Friday decided to designate the country's election systems as critical infrastructure.

The designation means the department can offer more federal help to protect the systems. However, the running of elections will remain in control of local and state governments, DHS said.

"Cyber attacks on this country are becoming more sophisticated," DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement on Friday. "Bad cyberactors – ranging from nation states, cybercriminals, and hacktivists – are becoming more sophisticated and dangerous."

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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