Top intelligence officials of President Donald Trump's administration have said that Russia was indeed responsible for the hacking that took place during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On May 11, several intelligence officials -- including the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA -- appeared at a Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing, reports Market Watch. At the hearing, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats -- who was nominated for his position by Trump himself -- submitted a statement commenting on Russia's hacking abilities, in which he asserted that Russia "has assumed a more aggressive cyber posture."
"This aggressiveness was evident in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election and we assess that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized the 2016 U.S. election-focused data thefts and disclosures, based on the scope and sensitivity of the targets," his statement continued.
According to The New York Times, Coats' statement was a conclusion reached by former President Barack Obama's administration; Coats reportedly read the statement almost verbatim and also endorsed it.
Statements made by the other officials present at the meeting have also suggested that cyberthreats from Russia are a legitimate threat to U.S. security and interests. The New York Times reports that as part of their annual worldwide threats assessment, the officials said that Russia has been exhibiting "aggressive cyberposture" and that this position was supported by "Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election."
The New York Times also reports that Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, has stated that Russia will likely try to interfere in future elections.
"I hope we learn from it as well and will be able to more effectively defeat it," he said.
In addition, Market Watch reports that Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia -- who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- asked the intelligence officials present at the meeting about a January statement issued by the Obama administration. The statement claimed that Russia had attempted to interfere in the election and that the effort was meant to aid Trump in assuming the presidency and hinder Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Warner asked the present officials if they agreed with the statement's stance. The heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA all reportedly said that they did.
The statements made by the intelligence officials at the meeting may be surprising to some given Trump's position on the topic of Russia as a cyber threat. Trump has been a vocal critic of claims that Russian interference was responsible for his victory.
For example, on May 11 -- the very day the meeting took place -- Trump tweeted that "Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democrat EXCUSE for losing the election."