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Vice President Mike Pence at an Axios event Wednesday. Photo: Chuck Kennedy / Axios

"Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election."
— Vice President Mike Pence at an Axios event Wednesday.

Fact check: U.S. Intelligence chiefs say they have made no such judgment.

What they know
  • U.S. intelligence chiefs have determined that Russia tried to meddle in the election.
  • Yesterday, during a hearing on world threats, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats even said Russia believes their efforts were successful, and sees the 2018 midterms as another potential target.
  • Department of Homeland Security officials said in September that 21 states had been targeted by Russian government hackers during the campaign, and some successfully infiltrated their elections systems, but said there was no evidence of any voting machines being affected.
What they don't know
  • According to a joint assessment on Russian interference released in January: "We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion."
  • That statement means not only have U.S. intel leaders not reached a conclusion on whether the outcome of the election was impacted, but it is not in their authority to analyze political processes.

Flashback: In October of 2017, the CIA was forced to walk Director Mike Pompeo's assertion that Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the election were unsuccessful, specifically stating no such determination had been made.

Go deeper

Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The U.S. Omicron wave may be peaking, but now COVID deaths are climbing as cases continue to soar in most of the country.

The big picture: Omicron’s stranglehold in the U.S. started about a month ago. Its death toll — while almost certain to be smaller than previous waves of the pandemic — is only now starting to take hold, and deaths will likely continue to rise for several weeks.

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome" that's afflicted American and Canadian diplomats around the world, per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.