The revelation that the CIA believed Russia had intervened in the presidential election with the express purpose of helping Trump win caused a massive furor in December.
In one sense, the CIA’s assessment was not much of a surprise. Russia had long been believed to be behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the private email account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. The Obama administration had publicly stated in October that it was confident the Russian government had directed the hacking.
The DNC hack led to the resignation of its chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) when it became apparent that staff members had favored Clinton over her left-wing primary challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The Podesta hack caused further embarrassment, including to Wasserman Schultz’s temporary replacement, Donna Brazile. A leaked email showed that Brazile, who was then a CNN contributor, had given the Clinton campaign advance notice of a question the frontrunner might be asked at a townhall meeting in Flint, Mich.
Trump, meanwhile, has been deeply skeptical of the idea that Russian hackers sought to swing the election toward him. He called that narrative “ridiculous” in a Dec. 11 “Fox News Sunday” interview. His aides argued that Trump’s critics were trying to delegitimize his election win.
In the year’s closing days, President Obama announced the expulsion of 35 Russian operatives from the U.S, as well as a number of other measures in response to the alleged hacking.