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CIA Director Wrongly Says U.S. Found Russia Didn't Affect Election Result

by Ken Dilanian and Vivian Salama /  / Updated 
CIA Director Mike Pompeo answers questions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on April 13.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP file

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WASHINGTON — CIA Director Mike Pompeo incorrectly asserted Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia's interference campaign did not affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

"We conducted an election that had integrity," Pompeo, a former Republican member of Congress from Kansas, said during a public event in response to a question from NBC News. "And yes, the intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election."

In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies did not reach that conclusion, nor did they consider that question.

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The CIA quickly issued a statement clarifying Pompeo's remarks.

"The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had," spokesman Ryan Trapani said.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Thursday evening: "This is not the first time the Director has made statements minimizing the significance of what the Russians did, but it needs to be the last."

The public version of the U.S. intelligence assessment examining Russian election interference was released in January. It concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

"This report does not assess the impact of Russian activities on the actual outcome."

"This report does not assess the impact of Russian activities on the actual outcome."

It also specifically stated: "We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion."

U.S. officials say the same is true of the classified version of the document.

When he briefed Congress in January on the intelligence assessment, James Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, said: "This report does not — repeat does not — assess the impact of Russian activities on the actual outcome of the 2016 election or draw any conclusions in that regard one way or the other." Clapper also said there was no evidence that the Russians had actually altered vote totals on Election Day.

Former senior U.S. officials who have read the classified assessment have told NBC News that there is no way to know whether the Russian effort — including hacking, leaking and a barrage of fake news on social media — influenced the election.

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