Anyone have a breakdown on what we actually know for sure? There's a lot of speculation out there, but what are the known FACTS?

  • 13
    This question has several fundamental problems: (1) it shows zero research effort; (2) it's a "list question" hence too broad; (3) the list is rapidly changing; e.g. the yesterday's answer would not include today's update about Paul Manafort's guilty plea; (4) a considerable part of this list is not publicly accessible yet. Sep 14, 2018 at 21:02

4 Answers 4


It's far too long to be fully quoted, but this assessment from January 2017 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence(ODNI) contains most of the general reasoning behind the US intelligence community's consensus of Russian influence in the election.

Unfortunately, the publicly available version is the declassified version, and as such it does not include the exact sources and evidence behind each of the claims. However, the declassified report contains the same conclusions as the full classified report, and includes some general examples/info for each claim.

The report contains four main assessments:

Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election

Russian Campaign Was Multifaceted

Influence Effort Was Boldest Yet in the US

Election Operation Signals “New Normal” in Russian Influence Efforts

And has the following overall summary:

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”

It offers a short list justification/examples for each assessment, a few of which I've added here:

Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election

We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.


In trying to influence the US election, we assess the Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.


Putin has had many positive experiences working with Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.


Russian Campaign Was Multifaceted

We assess that influence campaigns are approved at the highest levels of the Russian Government—particularly those that would be politically sensitive.


Moscow’s campaign aimed at the US election reflected years of investment in its capabilities, which Moscow has honed in the former Soviet states.

Influence Effort Was Boldest Yet in the US

Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election represented a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations aimed at US elections. We assess the 2016 influence campaign reflected the Kremlin’s recognition of the worldwide effects that mass disclosures of US Government and other private data—such as those conducted by WikiLeaks and others—have achieved in recent years, and their understanding of the value of orchestrating such disclosures to maximize the impact of compromising information.

Election Operation Signals “New Normal” in Russian Influence Efforts

Putin’s public views of the disclosures suggest the Kremlin and the intelligence services will continue to consider using cyber-enabled disclosure operations because of their belief that these can accomplish Russian goals relatively easily without significant damage to Russian interests.

There's many more claims and justifications in the report, but this answer is already getting a bit too long. The point is, most of what is publicly known are just summaries and conclusions based on classified information.

Most of the direct sources of information will likely be kept confidential so that they can continue to be used, and most of the direct evidence will not be presented until those charged with election interference go to trial.

  • 8
    What the Russians did to influence the election is conspicuously missing. "Influence" is an extraordinarily broad and vague term. It could range anything from passing out pamphlets to fraudulent voting. I don't think a complete answer can avoid being specific about what was (and perhaps was not) done.
    – jpmc26
    Sep 14, 2018 at 22:55
  • It has been reported that several voter organizations were subject to hacking attempts, both direct entry and by phishing. The hacker groups left subtle and not so subtle traces (server IP addresses, coding styles) that are known to be linked to groups Russia has used in the past or are actually part of the Russian government/military/intelligence agencies. As noted other countries were also 'victims' of these types of attacks and shared their findings with the US. These types of details might address jpmc's suggestion.
    – CramerTV
    Sep 14, 2018 at 23:52
  • @Giter Vital information should appear in answers, not in links, which may rot. This has been a well established norm on SE for at least over 6 years. See meta.stackexchange.com/q/225370/216712
    – jpmc26
    Sep 14, 2018 at 23:57
  • 2
    @jpmc26: It's hard to summarize a summary, but I just added the succinct-est bit which gives an overall list of what was done.
    – Giter
    Sep 15, 2018 at 0:00
  • 1
    @jpmc26 "anything from passing out pamphlets to fraudulent voting" According to the prosecution it even includes publishing news items with no bearing on the election. Sep 17, 2018 at 1:57

"for sure" is a relative term. Russia denies any state interference as far as I know, although Putin at one point admitted to "patriotically minded" Russian hackers supposedly doing things on their own.

Anyway, what Mueller's team was confident enough to bring charges for (as directly emanating as efforts from Russia) were two "waves" insofar:

The individuals charged are Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova, Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva, Sergey Pavlovich Polozov, Maria Anatolyevna Bovda, Robert Sergeyevich Bovda, Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly Aslanov, Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev, Gleb Igorevitch Vasilchenko, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin and Vladimir Venkov.

All were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants were charged with aggravated identity theft.

The indictment is 37-pages long, so I obviously cannot go over all the details here, but some examples include:

Events were organised by Russians posing as Trump supporters and as groups opposed to Trump such as Black Lives Matter, according to prosecutors. One advertisement shortly before the election promoted the Green party candidate Jill Stein, who is blamed by some Clinton backers for splitting the anti-Trump vote.

In August 2016, Russian operatives communicated with Trump campaign staff in Florida through their “@donaldtrump.com” email addresses to coordinate a series of pro-Trump rallies in the state, according to Mueller, and then bought advertisements on social media to promote the events.

At one rally in West Palm Beach, a Russian operative is even alleged to have paid Americans to build a cage on a flatbed truck and to have an actor posing as Clinton in a prison uniform stand inside. [...]

The Russians are also accused of working to suppress turnout among ethnic minority voters. They allegedly created an Instagram account posing as “Woke Blacks” and railed against the notion that African Americans should choose Clinton as “the lesser of two devils” against Trump.

In early November 2016, according to the indictment, the Russian operatives used bogus “United Muslims of America” social media accounts to claim that “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today.”

  • An in in July 2018 the Mueller's team was confident enough to bring charges was the DNC hack for which 12 Russians were indicted.

The Russians used techniques including “spearphishing” and spying software, before publishing the emails through well-known online accounts including Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, which purported to be independent American and Romanian hackers. [Deputy US attorney general] Rosenstein said both personas were in fact operated by the GRU. [...]

The indictment targeted 12 Russian military officers in two cyberwarfare units in the Military Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, up to the rank of colonel. The Russians are charged with conspiracies against the US, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

More related to the 1st indictment than the 2nd, Congress released some 3,000 Facebook ads they say were purchased by Russian agencies.

  • 2
    Regarding Mueller's confidence to indict, recommend highlighting the the probes response to the interest from the indicted to actually have the case tried. As the saying goes, it is possible to indict a ham sandwich. Sep 14, 2018 at 19:28
  • @DrunkCynic: I'm not sure what you mean. Most of that page is about Manafort. The only relevant stuff about the 13-Russians case is " The Russian defendants are all beyond U.S. jurisdiction, so there would be no trial, and thus no possibility that the allegations would ever be tested in court." The same observation surely applies to the later batch of 12 GRU officers. That Russia doesn't extradite anyone is well known by now, see e.g. the Skripals case.
    – Fizz
    Sep 14, 2018 at 19:31
  • 1
    The hard part is finding a reference that wouldn't be dismissed as 'biased' because not many have well covered what happened in the case after the indictments were issued. link Sep 14, 2018 at 19:52
  • 1
    @DrunkCynic: I'm still not seeing your point. The Russian company that was indicted in the 1st wave chose (unlike the Russian individuals) to appear in court (via lawyers, of course) and challenged Mueller's authority, but without luck insofar politico.com/story/2018/08/13/… Of course there's not going to be a totally unbiased view on this matter.
    – Fizz
    Sep 14, 2018 at 20:08

"The known FACTS" is not a terribly well-defined concept. Different types of election interference have been alleged by different people. Some of these allegations have been vetted by news organizations; some have not. Some have been admitted to by the people involved; some have not. It is probably too early, historically speaking, to know precisely what happened.

With this in mind, I will focus on the indictments that have been issued (so far) by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing investigation. The facts alleged in these indictments have not been proven in a court of law, but they are probably the most likely to be true out of the various allegations that are swirling around. I hope that someone else will provide a complementary answer detailing other allegations that have been made.

The indictments issued by the Special Counsel's Office are available on the SCO's webpage. Out of these, there are two that relate directly to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  • U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al. This indictment alleges that "Internet Research Agency", a Russian company, carried out a social media campaign with the goal of influencing the 2016 US election. This involved creating fake social media identities that purported to be US citizens; stealing US citizens' identities to post on social media; buying political advertisements under the names of US citizens. The indictment also alleges that the defendants,

posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.

  • U.S. v. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, et al. This indictment alleges that the defendants, a group of GRU (Russian military intelligence) officers, hacked into the computers of various parties involved in the 2016 election. They then stole documents from and installed malware on those computers, and staged the release of said documents in order to affect the election. The computers that were hacked belonged to (among others) the Clinton campaign's chairman, the Democratic National Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Committee.

The investigation is ongoing, of course, and it is possible that further indictments will be issued; I will try to remember to update this answer when & if that happens.

EDIT (2021-06-10): The final Mueller Report was issued in 2019. Here are some selected quotes that describe Mueller's findings (all taken from the Executive Summary of the report.) Note that several sections of the report are redacted.

Russian Social Media Campaign

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation—a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prigozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin...

The IRA used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton.

Russian Hacking Operations

At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations. ...

The presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign” or “Campaign”) showed interest in WikiLeaks’s releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton.

Russian Contacts with the Campaign

The social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government. The Office investigated whether those contacts reflected or resulted in the Campaign conspiring or coordinating with Russia in its election-interference activities. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.


Here is a timeline of Russian interference in the 2016 United States election. This article has dozens of relevant individuals, hundreds of meetings, and hundreds of sources. Since the cited sources sometimes provide explanations for the evidence that corroborates the event known or believed to take place, this is one of the most complete resources for facts pertaining to the subject. However, the FBI investigation into the subject is likely also privy to some facts that have not been divulged to the public. Facts most likely to fall into this bucket are the kind that have been obtained by secret surveillance, have been proffered by defendants in exchange for plea deals, or are being kept secret until the prosecution can present them against endgame defendants who have not yet been prosecuted (Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner).

  • You should quote/summarize the relevant information from the link (and perhaps also link to a specific revision of the wiki page), since the linked pages can change or be deleted after you have left your answer.
    – V2Blast
    Sep 15, 2018 at 7:56
  • @V2Blast I think for a subject like this, in which there are about 400 "known facts," it is outside my ability to quote the relevant portion, unless it is acceptable to use a 30-page blockquote. I would get downvoted for including a 30-page blockquote, right?
    – John
    Sep 15, 2018 at 17:13
  • Then you should summarize the most relevant information.
    – V2Blast
    Sep 15, 2018 at 17:42

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