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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

The Birth of Cyber Attacks; Russia Working Underground. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 27, 2017 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[22:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: ... adversary. They're coming after America. They're coming after America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Dangerous and deceptive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a reasonably realistic e-mail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He meant to say illegitimate. He said it was legitimate. The rest is history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Their weapons, insidious and unsuspected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're looking to weaponized information.

SCIUTTO: Threatening American votes and striking at the heart of democracy.

Do you think they see their interference in this election as a success?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: A spy story in cyber space.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't believe that domain is owned by act blue, so we investigate it.

SCIUTTO: That would lead right to Putin's doorstep.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And when words of warning were not nearly enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw President Putin tell him to cut it out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Tonight, a CNN special report. The Russian Connection: Inside the Attack on Democracy.

It was an unprecedented attack on the very heart of American democracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: Russia is directly behind a series of cyber- attacks targeting the upcoming presidential election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That in one remarkable year catapulted Russia, the old Cold War adversary, once again to the center of American politics and the American psyche on an almost daily basis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think every American should be concerned about what the Russians did.

JOHN MCCAIN, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: This is a centipede, a shoe will drop every few days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Hampering a presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I owe nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And undermining and even ending the careers of top presidential advisers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEAN SPICER, UNITED STATES White House PRESS SECRETARY: The president

was very concerned that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The president's first national security adviser Michael Flynn fired for lying about conversations with Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY YATES, FORMER UNITED STATES ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: To state the obvious, you don't want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: His Attorney General, Jeff Sessions...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have recused myself in the matters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: ... forced to recuse himself from all Russia investigations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear.

SCIUTTO: For not disclosing his own contacts with Russian officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't think anybody knows it was Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Trump, himself, repeatedly questioning the intelligence community's high confidence, judgment that Russia interfered with the election that brought him into the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Could also be china. Could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And dramatically, Mr. Trump firing his FBI director.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey. My decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Over a Russia investigation the president simply does not trust.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: It is my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Now, a special counsel. The FBI and four separate congressional committees are pursuing investigations. How did we get here? And how did Russian influence potentially reach the highest levels of the U.S. government?

Can you say when you were first made aware that Russia or some country was attempting to infiltrate U.S. political organization?

CLAPPER: Sometime over the summer of 2015.

SCIUTTO: James clapper was then the Director of National Intelligence. The nation's senior-most intelligence official. At that first warning, was it clear to you how serious it would become?

CLAPPER: No, I don't think it was because obviously the Russians have us as a primary, maybe the primary, intelligence target, anyway.

SCIUTTO: The first quiet warning came September 2015 when a mid-level FBI agent notified the Democratic National Committee that Russian hackers had compromised at least one DNC computer.

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESIDENTIAL CHAIRMAN: They left a phone message at the help desk of the DNC. They didn't treat it with the kind of seriousness I think that it deserved.

SCIUTTO: That was the FBI's first direct contact with the DNC. A message left for a low-level computer technician who did not return the FBI's call.

STEVE HALL, FORMER CHIEF OF CIA RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: The bureau, it's a busy place, they got lots of stuff to do, but I suspect if they had it to do over again, they probably would try to do it differently in retrospect.

The DNC technician, an outsourced employee, did scan the system networks but found nothing. And the I.T. department apparently did not share the FBI's concerns with more senior DNC staff.

[22:04:59] The breach would prove to be enormous. Hackers gaining access to countless e-mails, communications and documents.

HALL: I can imagine them sitting down a couple weeks later and saying, well, that went pretty well, look, we're in. SCIUTTO: And as the campaign for president was already well underway.

For weeks, the FBI kept calling the same computer help desk number at the DNC. Never reaching out to DNC leaders and never making the short trip in person to DNC headquarters.

HALL: Looking back, I think they would probably say, we should have been a little bit more aggressive, but again, it's hard to predict where these things are going to end up and this one ended up in a pretty interesting place.

SCIUTTO: The FBI told CNN it made repeated attempts to alert more senior DNC staff, including sharing information on how to identify breaches in their systems. By November 2015, polls show Hillary Clinton leading the pack of democratic contenders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Join my campaign, join this effort. Let's go win for America. Thank you, all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: It was now one year to Election Day. And the FBI agent called again with even more alarming news. A DNC computer was now transmitting information back to Russia.

Still, DNC executives claim they were not made aware of the threat, leaving the Russians to roam free inside the democrats' computers for months. In the end, giving them further and further ammunition to disrupt the U.S. election.

PODESTA: A hostile foreign power is trying to actively engage in our electoral process. You would have thought that that would have are risen up to the attention of the other intelligence agencies of the White House, itself.

TOM DONILON, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It goes to the fundamental core of our democracy.

SCIUTTO: Tom Donilon, President Obama's National Security Adviser, came face-to-face more than once with the Russian leader behind the attacks.

DONILON: It was alarming because it was absolutely consistent with Putin's intent to undermine the institutions of the west.

SCIUTTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, famous for his boldness, even ruthlessness. At home, some of his opponents end up dead. Abroad, his prime target is the U.S.

HALL: There's no doubt in my mind that Vladimir Putin was involved from the very beginning, knew all the details of this and, indeed, might have been the intellectual author of quite a bit of it and was probably very eager to see, geez, are we really going to be able to pull this off?

SCIUTTO: Next, a nation brought to its knees by a massive Russian cyber-attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People started asking, what's going on, who's in charge?

[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: April 2007. The Eastern European country of Estonia, a NATO ally and neighbor of Russia, is rocked by violent protests. After the relocation of this Soviet War memorial. Jaanus Lillenberg was working for an Estonian paper at the time.

JAANUS LILLENBERG, ICT DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR, ERR ?ESTONIAN PUBLIC BROADCAST: They broke windows, attacked cars which were parked at the roadside, threw stones, bottles, everything like that.

SCIUTTO: Riot police struggled to restore order. But the chaos continued. Estonia's foreign minister recalls a growing sense of fear among his countrymen.

SVEN MIKSER, ESTONIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: The scale, a dozen or so cars being turned upside down. I mean, people, well, get nervous when things like that happen.

SCIUTTO: Estonia, a tiny nation of just over 1 million people perched on the border with Russia had not seen anything like this since it regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Witnesses quickly noticed that rioters had one name, one country, on their lips.

(CROWD CHANTING)

LILLENBERG: Crowd was shouting, Russia, Russia, which means Russia.

SCIUTTO: Estonians did not for a moment believe that was an accident. Then Defense Minister Jaak Aviksoo had only been on the job three weeks.

You believe those protests were orchestrated.

JAAK AVIKSOO, FORMER ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Yes, to a certain extent.

SCIUTTO: That kind of violent protest, this just doesn't happen in Estonia.

LILLENBERG: Absolutely. It's like, no, it just doesn't happen.

SCIUTTO: So the belief was these protests were orchestrated, manufactured?

LILLENBERG: Yes. I guess that's pretty much the describing term, orchestrated.

SCIUTTO: The violence on the streets wasn't the worst of it. Silently, in cyber space, an invisible army was mounting an attack, an attack that would foreshadow the turmoil that would soon come to Western Europe and then America. How did you know that you were under attack? What gave you your first

chance?

AVIKSOO: I looked at different news portals and they were down. I asked, what's going on? The same thing. And it was reported the banks were down, government web sites.

SCIUTTO: You suspected a cyber-assault.

AVIKSOO: Yes. Yes. That was clear that it's not bad weather.

SCIUTTO: Right.

AVIKSOO: It's bad people out there.

SCIUTTO: While the U.S. election was a new target, Russia has been waging cyber warfare across Europe for years. And one of its most frequent targets is its neighbor, the former Soviet republic, now NATO ally, Estonia.

[22:15:03] The 2007 attack left Estonians with no news web sites, no government web sites. Very little information.

AVIKSOO: And people started asking what's going on? Who's in charge?

SCIUTTO: Electronic banking at ATMs and online, which at the time accounted for the vast majority of all transactions in Estonia, was completely down.

AVIKSOO: People were scared and we were by then rather internet-based society already.

SCIUTTO: Tiny Estonia, with its medieval walls and cobblestones streets in the capital Tallinn, is actually a technology powerhouse. It was the first country to allow online voting and it's known for being the birthplace of Skype.

But now one of the most wired countries in the world, was under one of the most crippling cyber-attacks the world had ever seen. The attackers created so-called botnets taking over hundreds of thousands of computers to launch the attack.

AVIKSOO: They flooded, they flooded the inputs of servers.

LILLENBERG: It's like tens and hundreds of times more than the servers could handle.

SCIUTTO: And the assault went on for weeks. Eventually, Estonia had to block all international web traffic to stop the onslaught. Disconnecting one of the most connected countries from the rest of the world.

LILLENBERG: No one from outside the world could get any information from Estonia. I think that was also the aim of the attack, actually.

SCIUTTO: To cut you off. LILLENBERG: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: So who was behind it? Estonia's foreign minister at the time blamed Russia. Though, Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We consider the European Union under attack by Russia because Russia is attacking Estonia. The attacks are psychological, virtual, and real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Today, perhaps fearing the consequences of publicly assigning blame to Russia, Estonian officials are more careful.

AVIKSOO: We found out that these attacks were not that spontaneous as they pretended to be. Considerable resources involved to make these attacks possible.

SCIUTTO: And did that lead you to a suspect?

AVIKSOO: Back in 2007 and now 10 years later, we don't have the smoking gun. We don't have the fingerprints or footprints. But when we say that most probably one of our neighbors was concerned, so we also know that this was not Latvia or either Finland.

SCIUTTO: And that leaves Russia.

AVIKSOO: Yes, I mean, the evidence, indirect evidence, clearly shows in that direction.

SCIUTTO: Would it be reasonable to think it was anybody else but Russia? Would it make sense?

LILLENBERG: That wouldn't make sense.

SCIUTTO: After carrying out increasingly bold cyber-attacks across Europe, including here in Estonia, Russia's President Vladimir Putin turns his country's attention to its biggest target yet. The U.S. and the 2016 presidential election.

Coming up, how the hackers tricked the Democratic Party.

JOHN HULTQUIST, DIRECTOR, FIREEYE: It was a reasonably realistic e- mail. It looked fairly legitimate.

SCIUTTO: And the trail of evidence leading right back to Russia.

[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: March 2016. Eight months to Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Hello, Ohio.

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The republican and democratic primaries were full of sound and fury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

TRUMP: Who wants Hillary? Who wants Trump?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: More and more of it about Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: By now, Russian hackers had penetrated the Democratic National Committee for months and were setting their sights on new targets. Using the crudest of cyber weapons, so-called sphere phishing e-mails.

HULTQUIST: So, in addition to the organizations that were targeted, multiple individuals were targeted with sphere phishing e-mails that resembled Google warnings.

SCIUTTO: John Hultquist is director for intelligence analysis at the cyber security firm, FireEye.

HULTQUIST: They clicked on those thinking they were security warnings and this basically transported them to a place where the adversary could collect their credentials and reuse them to gain access to their accounts. It was a reasonably realistic e-mail. It looked fairly legitimate.

SCIUTTO: A prime target was the chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign, John Podesta.

PODESTA: There was a Google alert that there was some compromise in the system and that change the password.

SCIUTTO: This seemingly benign message was actually a sphere phishing e-mail. It warned someone just used your password and prompted Podesta to change his password immediately by clicking on a link. It was signed, innocuously, best, the G-mail team.

PODESTA: It actually got managed by my assistant who checked with our cyber security guy and through a comedy of errors I guess, he instructed her to go ahead and click on it and she did.

SCIUTTO: The fatal error, Podesta's I.T. person wrote back calling the e-mail legitimate, when, in fact -- he meant to say the opposite, right?

PODESTA: Right. He meant to say that it was illegitimate. He said it was legitimate. The rest is history.

SCIUTTO: One typo, one click, and Russian hackers had gained free rein throughout the e-mail of the man running Clinton's presidential campaign.

The initial weapon as it were, cyber weapon, pretty simple. It was not, you know, high-level stuff.

CLAPPER: That is one of the frustrations I think for all cyber security experts.

[22:24:59] SCIUTTO: Russia had now successfully breached two Democratic Party computer systems out of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

HULTQUIST: We were kind of blown away by the brashness that they were operating with. Almost like, they didn't anticipate any consequences for their action.

SCIUTTO: Back on the campaign trail, it was looking more and more likely to be Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Love Trump's hate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Versus Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And we're going to beat crooked Hillary so bad that your heads will spin.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: April 2016. Seven months to Election Day. Nine months since the first intrusion inside the Democratic National Committee. The DNC's computer technician finally discovers the breach. Though much of the damage had already been done, DNC notified the FBI and hired the cyber security firm, CrowdStrike.

Crowdstrike's forensic work quickly identified two culprits. Both linked to Russia. One dubbed Fancy Bear, the other Cozy Bear. Familiar foes for cyber security experts. HULTQUIST: Long before any of this transpired around the election,

we've known these actors for many years. There's a lot of evidence that this actor is Russian or Russian speaker.

SCIUTTO: What kind of evidence? Some of it surprisingly simple. Such as time stamps showing the hackers were starting and finishing their work days on Moscow time.

HULTQUIST: The mistake they made is leaving these time stamps. Now if you look at enough of them over time, you get a picture of what actual hours this operator is working and what they come down to is work schedule that fits right in with western Russia's time zone. Besides that, there's a lot of Russian language artifacts.

SCIUTTO: That means computer code written in the Cyrillic or Russian alphabet. Hultquist and his team did not let down their guard for new intrusions and by the summer of 2016, they detected Fancy Bear sniffing out more prey.

HULTQUIST: It's really exciting to catch these guys in the act.

SCIUTTO: The Russian hackers had infiltrated Act Blue, the democratic fund-raising web site.

HULTQUIST: They were diverting people who went to the Act Blue system, the donations system, to a server that they owned.

SCIUTTO: Hultquist's team showed us exactly what they found.

BEN READ, CYBER ESPIONAGE ANALYSIS MANAGER, FIREEYE: This is the web site of the D triple C, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on July 19th, 2016. If you right click and go to view page source, it will bring you the HTML source. So the code that's behind what you see.

In this case, what was interesting was that normally here, this is the hyperlink, normally this would go to secure.actblue.com, but in this case, it goes to secure.actblues with an "s.com." That was weird.

SCIUTTO: Act Blues with an "s" had nothing to do with the democrats and appeared to be a Russian cover.

HULTQUIST: The second I saw we were sending -- you know, there were e-mails flying everywhere including to the targeted organization, obviously wanted to give them a heads-up.

SCIUTTO: It was one more brazen intrusion inside the American political process.

HULTQUIST: We have high confidence that this is a Russian intelligence organization because we've been tracking this actor for so long, and we've seen so many artifacts, forensic and otherwise, that suggest that this actor is carrying out Russian intelligence missions.

SCIUTTO: Next, what would Russia do with the tens of thousands of e- mails they had found inside Democratic Party organizations?

HALL: They're looking to weaponize information.

SCIUTTO: As Hillary Clinton's opponent, Donald Trump, gleefully egged them on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN: Hackers allegedly connected to the Russian government break into the servers of the Democratic National Committee.

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: June 2016.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) FORMER UNITED STATES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is not qualified to be president and commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Five months to Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN: Russian hackers managed to infiltrate...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And the world is getting the first hints of the deluge of the stolen e-mails and documents to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a deep breach, no question about it.

SCIUTTO: A mysterious blogger or bloggers nicknamed Guccifer 2.0, in fact, a cover for a sophisticated Russian hacking operation, began posting the first set of stolen documents.

JOHN HULTQUIST, CYBERSECURITY DIRECTOR, FIREEYE: They love putting on these false personas and carrying out operations through them.

SCIUTTO: So what was Russia going to do with all the stolen information?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CHIEF OF CIA RUSSIAN OPERATIONS: They're looking to weaponize information.

SCIUTTO: Steven Hall is the CIA's former Moscow station chief. HALL: It's oftentimes interesting to put myself given my background

into the position of the Russian intelligence officer. So I can imagine these guys saying, would it be too crazy to think we could perhaps actually pull together an influence operation? And, you know, it probably got run up the chain, somebody said, well, you know, why not? Let's give it a shot.

SCIUTTO: Guccifer 2.0 took its first shot within days of the story breaking that the DNC had been hacked. Releasing batches of materials, not just from the Democratic National Committee, but also from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. All had been infiltrated by Russian hackers.

HALL: It's the Russian services taking that gold that they had collected, making something out of it that in turn can be used against their adversaries, in this case the United States. We continue to be their primary enemy.

SCIUTTO: Guccifer 2.0 would soon be joined by other rogue publishers such as WikiLeaks. Site founded by Julian Assange.

HALL: You want what we call in the business a cutout, you want a third party. Somebody like, I don't know, WikiLeaks.

SCIUTTO: And on July 22nd, WikiLeaks posted this stunning announcement. It would release more than 19,000 e-mails from the Democratic National Committee.

So in effect, you have electronic evidence of a middle man as it were between Russia and WikiLeaks.

[22:35:01] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER UNITED STATES NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Well, we were pretty high in our confidence that's what happened. I'll put it that way.

SCIUTTO: WikiLeaks, however, continues to deny receiving the hacked documents from Russia. Just three days before the start of the Democratic Party convention, the stolen e-mails would suggest that top leaders of the Democratic National Committee were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders for the party's nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: All right, everybody, settle down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, was forced to resign. The first scout of Russia's influence operation. And the press quickly shifted focus toward the controversy. Russia's influence campaign appeared to be having an effect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any direct reaction coming from the protesters there about this shakeup in the DNC?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: A delighted Donald Trump tweeted, "The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails which should never have been written, stupid, because Putin likes me."

And then in a now infamous speech, he took the alarming step of egging the Russian on to hack Hillary Clinton's private server.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Trump was not alone in his circle celebrating the Russian hacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: One supporter in particular, the longtime conspiracy theorist, Roger Stone, hinted that he had advanced knowledge of the releases, raising questions for the first time of possible cooperation between Trump associates and Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation, but there's no telling what the October surprise may be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: In October, Roger Stone once again seemed to signal advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans tweeting, quote, "Wednesday, Hillary Clinton is done. Hash tag, WikiLeaks."

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESIDENTIAL CHAIRMAN: There seems to be some indication there's some contact between forces closely associated with the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. It certainly seemed like an interesting coincidence, let's put it that way.

SCIUTTO: Later, Stone denied speaking with Assange directly or colluding with the Russians. As for the Russian President, himself, Vladimir Putin laughed at the idea of Russian involvement in an interview with Bloomberg News. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): No, I don't know anything about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLAPPER: I did have a very visceral feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was a really serious thing, assault on our, you know, the very heart of our democracy. And that's one of the reasons I felt so strongly about putting out the statement that we did in October.

SCIUTTO: On October 7th, one month and one day before the election, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly named and shamed Russia. Their statement read, quote, "The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions."

HALL: You get 17 distinct agencies together and say, yes, we essentially all concur on this, that's a significant thing.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, the releases of stolen e-mails accelerate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Steady drip of stolen e-mail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: E-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: E-mails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: John Podesta, chair of the Hillary Clinton campaign, will never forget October 7th, 2016.

PODESTA: Early in the morning, the director of homeland security and the director of national intelligence released a statement that the Russians were actively interfering in the election. Later in the day, the Access Hollywood tape came out.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: I did (muted), she was married.

(END VOICE CLIP)

PODESTA: And, of course, everyone's attention turned to what Donald Trump had been saying to Billy Bush on that bus.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet.

(END VOICE CLIP)

SCIUTTO: A break for the Clinton campaign. That is, until just moments later.

PODESTA: Within minutes, I think 23 minutes later, the first of the e-mails was posted to WikiLeaks with a statement from Julian Assange that said that, you know, we have the contents of his e-mail system and we're going to release them all. Of course, the campaign.

SCIUTTO: That is, the entire contents of John Podesta's private account, totaling more than 50,000 e-mails. Once again, the source of the e-mail trove was WikiLeaks and democrats and later the U.S. intelligence community suspected the release had been timed for maximum impact.

Do you have any doubt that those two events that day, the Access Hollywood tape then the release soon after of your e-mails -- it's not going to...

(CROSSTALK)

PODESTA: Let's put it, it's a pretty massive coincidence they would choose to pull a trigger on a Friday evening when they've been sitting on it for a while.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: No, I have nothing to say about WikiLeaks other than I think we should all be concerned about what the Russians are trying to do to our election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That Friday night e-mail dump was just the first of many.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: It is Russia that behind these hacks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A brand new batch of hacked e-mails posted by WikiLeaks.

BLITZER: Steady drip of stolen e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: E-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The e-mails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And those releases quickly became a dominant story line of the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: E-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E-mails.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLAPPER: Russians are pretty intense observers of what goes on in this country, and try to both collect information on it and as we saw, where they can, exploit it.

[22:45:10] SCIUTTO: Russia's exploitation would expand to new targets. Neera Tanden, a longtime Hillary Clinton confidant, was on her transition team.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think I saw my name on, like, one of the TVs and I was, like, what happened?

SCIUTTO: Tanden's internal and sometimes critical comments on the campaign revealed to the world. In one e-mail conversation with Podesta, Tanden says, quote, "Hillary, God, her instincts are suboptimal."

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump eagerly attempted to take advantage of the stolen e-mails.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Did you see what came out over WikiLeaks?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Quoting them or attempting to in the third presidential debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now John Podesta said you have terrible instincts. Bernie Sanders said you have bad judgment. I agree with both.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TANDEN: He misjudged it in saying it was John Podesta. It was mine. But still like, I remember watching the TVs as it happened and wanting to put my head under the pillow.

SCIUTTO: The releases of the stolen Clinton campaign e-mails and memos continued right up to and even beyond Election Day.

TENDEN: All these e-mails were just getting dumped day in and day out. And every morning I basically woke up a dread for what was going to come next then I was like, is this going to sink the campaign or not?

SCIUTTO: Inside the white house, a sometimes bitter debate was unfolding. Some senior advisers including Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for a more robust response including stiffer economic sanctions. But abroad, the president feared escalation with Russia and at home, charges of influencing the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens, I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were playing this thing straight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: As Election Day approached, the Obama administration's greatest fear was that Russia was disrupt actual voting systems. The fear so great that President Obama warned Putin face-to-face at a G-20 meeting in China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn't happen was to talk to him directly. And tell him to cut it out and there were going to be some serious consequences if he didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Later, Obama made rare use of a secured direct messaging system to the Kremlin, similar to e-mail. Originally intended to overt nuclear war. This time, to warn Putin again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. CNN now projects that Donald Trump will carry the State of North Carolina. CNN projects Donald Trump will carry the State of Florida. CNN projects Donald Trump wins the presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: How damaging was this to the Clinton campaign?

PODESTA: Look, it was our job to win and we didn't do it. What went into that, you know, a lot of things and, you know, we bear our own sense of responsibility for that. But I think it was an important element of electing Donald Trump and I think Russians got what they've pray for.

SCIUTTO: After Election Day with growing urgency, the Obama administration finally retaliated. Closing Russian compounds in the U.S. believed to be used for spying, expelling some 35 Russian diplomats and imposing more sanctions on Russia.

In secret, Mr. Obama considered taking more aggressive steps, including initiating a plan to place cyber weapons inside critical Russian systems as first reported by the Washington Post. For potential activation if Russia were to attack again.

Next, was President Trump also in Russia's crosshairs? The emergence of a mysterious dossier.

CLAPPER: We thought that it was important that he know about it.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will to the best of my ability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Preserve, protect and defend...

TRUMP: ... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help me, God.

TRUMP: So help me, God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: By the time Donald Trump took the oath of office, the U.S. intelligence community had assessed, with confidence, that Russian President Vladimir Putin had an influenced campaign aimed at undermining the U.S. presidential election.

Why the level of confidence there?

CLAPPER: I'll just say with multiple sources and that all of us, the three agency heads and myself are very high in our confidence that the direction in the orchestration of this came from the highest levels of the Russian government.

SCIUTTO: What's your view as intelligence community s degree of vision inside Russia?

CLAPPER: It's not perfect but it's pretty good.

SCIUTTO: So good in fact as first reported by the Washington Post that the U.S. had sourcing deep inside the Russian government. Detailing Putin's direct involvement.

HALL: You would have had Russian intelligence officers and Russian policy makers saying this is a chance to strike at one of the founding notions, one of the underpinnings of liberal democracy which by the way is our number one enemy in the world.

SCIUTTO: And multiple sources tell CNN that U.S. spy agencies went further, determining again, with confidence the Kremlin had a more ambitious aim, discrediting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump.

CLAPPER: I think it's pretty clear if there was a prospect that he might win that clearly wanted to influence the election in favor of him because they thought they could make deals with him. [22:55:06] SCIUTTO: One compelling reason for that judgment is that

Russia had also hacked into the e-mails and files of Republican Party organizations and individuals, including members of Congress but crucially did not release the bulk of that information.

Do you think they see their interference in this election as a success?

CLAPPER: I do. There's no way to engage whether from this intelligence community perspective what effect it had. But regardless I feel sure they consider it a success.

SCIUTTO: Russian officials repeatedly and vehemently denied any interference in the U.S. election until earlier this month. Seven months after Election Day. President Putin for the first time opened the door to Russian involvement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PUTIN (through translator): Hackers are free spirited people. If they are patriotically minded, they start to make their own contribution to what they believe is the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia. Is that possible? Theoretically it's possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: It was a startling and frank revelation. Still more alarming questions remain unanswered today. Most prominent among them, did Russia have help from anyone inside the Trump campaign? The possibility of collusion remains a subject of congressional and now special counsel investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) UNITED STATES SENATOR: Do you stand by your testimony that there is an active investigation, counterintelligence investigation regarding Trump campaign individuals in the Russian government as to whether or not they collaborate? You said that in March that...

(CROSSTALK)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: To see if there was any coordination between the Russian effort...

GRAHAM: Right.

COMEY: ... and people...

(CROSSTALK)

GRAHAM: Is that still going on?

COMEY: Yes.

GRAHAM: OK. So nothing's changed. You stand by those two statements? COMEY: Correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Another continuing question for investigators does Russia hold information that could be damaging to Donald Trump if made public. The collection of such compromising material "kompromat" in Russian, is standard operating procedure for Russian spy services.

HALL: It's almost impossible to imagine that they would not have collected against Donald Trump. Through Russian lens Donald Trump would have been an American oligarch, a really rich guy who, you know, you'll never know, he might come in handy at some point if you need him down the road and the easiest way to make people more malleable and ready to work with you is if you have dirt on him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN breaking news.

SCIUTTO: Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.

TAPPER: This information was provided as part of last week's classified intelligence briefing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The nation's senior-most intelligence officials took the possibility of potentially compromising information seriously enough to brief both then-President elect Donald Trump and then President Obama on the existence of a bossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent and funded by Trump's political opponents.

News first reported by CNN. In conversations described in the dossier, Russian officials and others claimed to have personally and financially compromising information on Trump.

Can you tell us your think nothing to why you included a summary on the now famous dossier and the briefings to the president-elect and the president.

CLAPPER: Well, we thought that it was important that he know about it. That was the main point. Not to comment on the veracity.

SCIUTTO: So what happens the next time Americans vote? Lawmakers of both parties and the senior-most intelligence officials are unanimous in their answer. Russia will strike American democracy again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: It's not about republicans and democrats. They're coming after America. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world and they will be back because we remain that shining city on the hill and they don't like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Is there any reason to believe that Russia is not right now today continuing to attempt to or infiltrate U.S. political organizations and individuals to...

CLAPPER: I'm quite sure they are. I think it's in their DNC. Or during the Soviet era or now.

SCIUTTO: A return to the Cold War. This time, in cyber space. With a direct and ongoing threat to American democracy, even the Soviets never matched.