Pence says intel community concluded Russia did not affect outcome of election

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Vice President said Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community “universally” concluded that Russia did not have an affect on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, despite the fact that officials made no such judgment.

“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any affect on the outcome of the 2016 election,” Pence said at an event hosted by Axios, which he later repeated.

Pence went on to acknowledge Russian meddling in the election and explain that the administration is taking steps to counter the threat.

“It doesn’t mean there weren’t efforts, and we do know there were,” Pence said. “There were efforts by Russia and likely by other countries to involve or influence American elections and we take that very seriously.”

The U.S. intelligence community did not reach a conclusion one way or another on whether Russia affected the outcome of the election.

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russia activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” the unclassified assessment released last January states. “The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

U.S. officials have accused Russia of using cyberattacks and disinformation against the 2016 election to undermine American democracy, damage Democratic candidate , and help Republican .

Homeland Security officials have also disclosed that Russia targeted election systems in 21 states, though they have maintained that there is no evidence any vote counts were changed.

Top U.S. intelligence officials including Director of National Intelligence and CIA Director told lawmakers Tuesday that they expect Russia to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.

On Wednesday, Pence did not directly answer whether he agreed with that judgment, but insisted the administration was taking steps to ensure that state election systems and U.S. infrastructure are guarded from future foreign interference efforts.

“We have discussed plans going forward to ensure meddling in our elections by Russians or other powers around the world will be rebutted and that we’ll continue to develop the kind of technologies that ensure and maintain the integrity of our electoral system,” he said of his briefings with U.S. intelligence officials.

Pence went on to reiterate that Russia’s actions in 2016 had “no impact” on the result.

“Let me say again, the encouraging word is that it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence community that there was no impact on the outcome of the 2016 election from any foreign meddling in our elections,” Pence said, “I think that bares repeating.”

Pompeo made a similar remark last October, saying at a conference in Washington, “The intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”

The CIA later issued a statement appearing to walk back his remarks.

“The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed,” an agency spokesman told the Washington Post at the time, adding, “the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”

Trump himself has at times cast doubt on the intelligence community assessment, and has weathered criticism for not doing enough to penalize or call Russia out for his behavior. He has also described allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia being investigated by Special Counsel Robert as a “hoax.”