The Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in order to increase political instability in the United States and to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign by bolstering the candidacies of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. A January 2017 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Trump over Clinton, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Clinton's chances and "undermine public faith in the US democratic process".:7
On October 7, 2016, the ODNI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly stated that the U.S. Intelligence Community was confident that the Russian Government directed recent hacking of emails with the intention of interfering with the U.S. election process. According to the ODNI's January 6, 2017 report, the Russian military intelligence service (GRU) had hacked the servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the personal Google email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and forwarded their contents to WikiLeaks.:ii-iii,2 Although Russian officials have repeatedly denied involvement in any DNC hacks or leaks, there is strong forensic evidence linking the DNC breach to known Russian operations. In January 2017, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified that Russia also interfered in the elections by disseminating fake news promoted on social media. On July 13, 2018, 12 Russian military intelligence agents were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly hacking the email accounts and networks of Democratic Party officials.
On October 31, 2016, President Barack Obama warned Putin via the "red phone" to stop interfering or face consequences. In December 2016, Obama ordered a report on hacking efforts aimed at U.S. elections since 2008, while U.S. Senators called for a bipartisan investigation. President-elect Trump rejected claims of foreign interference and said that Democrats were reacting to their election loss. On December 29, 2016, the Obama Administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats, denied access to two Russia-owned compounds, and broadened existing sanctions on Russian entities and individuals. More sanctions were imposed against Russia by the Trump administration in March 2018, and on April 6, 2018, the Trump administration brought another new round of sanctions against Russia, targeting several oligarchs and high-ranking Russian officials. In June 2018, the United States Department of the Treasury implemented new sanctions on several Russian entities and officials in connection to cyberattacks by Russia related to the 2016 election interference. Several countries in the European Union have also pursued a sanctions regime against Russia, accusing the state of supporting terrorism and interfering in their own elections.