American spies heard a Russian intelligence officer vow to target Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a Thursday morning report in Time.
In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer told a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU, intended to target Clinton's campaign. U.S. spies heard the conversation, wrote it down and sent it to CIA analysts, who circulated it as raw intelligence, Time reported.
“We didn’t really understand the context of it until much later,” a senior intelligence official told Time. Ultimately, it was the first indication that Russia was considering interfering in the U.S. election.
The GRU, the Russian officer said, planned to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election.
During the intercepted call, the Russian officer said the operation was payback for what President Vladimir Putin believed were Clinton's attempts to sway public opinion against him five years earlier as secretary of state. In 2011, anti-Putin protests erupted in 70 cities. The Russian president believed Clinton had sent a "signal" encouraging it, Time reported. The State Department denied any involvement, saying they only funded pro-democracy organizations.
The investigation into whether there was cooperation between Donald Trump's campaign and Russian officials to influence the 2016 election has accelerated in recent days, with multiple revelations coming daily. Last week, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, raising allegations of obstruction of justice. On Monday, reports surfaced that the Trump transition team knew that former national security adviser Michael Flynn was under investigation and brought him into the administration anyway. On Tuesday, it was reported that Trump allegedly revealed highly classified information to Russian officials that could jeopardize intelligence sharing and the life of an agent embedded with ISIS. On Wednesday, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed as a special counsel to oversee the Trump/Russia investigation.