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  • >> There's this grievance that's

  • eating away at Vladimir Putin.

  • >> The FBI detected more

  • attempts...

  • >> Russian hackers are behind

  • those attacks.

  • >> NARRATOR: America in the

  • crosshairs.

  • >> This is the first time they

  • have gone out and weaponized

  • that information.

  • >> He's going to employ whatever

  • means he can to undermine the

  • United States.

  • >> NARRATOR: Tonight on

  • "Frontline," in a special

  • two-part investigation, the epic

  • inside story of "Putin's

  • Revenge."

  • >> We are now only a few days

  • away from electing the next

  • president of the United

  • States...

  • >> ...turning its attention

  • back to the election...

  • >> ...with the election just

  • days away...

  • >> NARRATOR: Election Day 2016.

  • As Americans headed to the

  • polls, U.S. intelligence

  • agencies were on high alert.

  • >> ...making the urgent push to

  • get out the vote.

  • >> Well, in the days before the

  • election, there was constant

  • interaction between the experts

  • at C.I.A., FBI, and NSA.

  • We were monitoring and using our

  • collection capabilities to

  • understand what the Russians

  • might have up their sleeve at

  • the 11th hour.

  • >> Breaking news here: Wikileaks

  • is about to release

  • "significant material tied to

  • Hillary Clinton."

  • >> The campaign is doing damage

  • control tonight after Wikileaks

  • released...

  • >> NARRATOR: The intelligence

  • agencies had been tracking a

  • multi-pronged effort to

  • influence voters: leaks of

  • hacked emails; ads on Facebook

  • and Google; on social media,

  • trolls and bots spreading fake

  • news-- all, they believed,

  • connected to Russian President

  • Vladimir Putin.

  • >> This was the most aggressive

  • and most direct and most

  • assertive campaign that the

  • Russians ever mounted in the

  • history of our elections.

  • And what characterized this

  • were the variety and intensity

  • of the techniques that they

  • employed.

  • >> NARRATOR: Now they detected

  • what they call O.P.E.--

  • operational preparation of the

  • environment.

  • >> The Russians will map the

  • architecture and the

  • environment of their targets.

  • >> NARRATOR: The target: state

  • electoral systems, registration

  • databases, voter information.

  • >> I'll never forget one day,

  • John Brennan said to me, "I'm

  • going to come brief you."

  • Now, it was not often that the

  • C.I.A. director, by himself,

  • came to DHS to meet with me, by

  • myself, to share intelligence.

  • >> NARRATOR: Brennan had told

  • Johnson the cyber-intrusions,

  • traced to Russia, could be the

  • first step in a plan to directly

  • interfere with voting.

  • >> The thing that immediately

  • has to come to you is, "Hey,

  • somebody might be trying to

  • eliminate from the rolls voters

  • in key states, in key precincts

  • through a very targeted, careful

  • effort."

  • You could really do a lot of

  • damage.

  • >> ...Going to the polls,

  • casting their ballots...

  • >> History will be made today...

  • >> NARRATOR: Inside the

  • administration, the question:

  • Just how far would Putin go?

  • >> I didn't know if the Russians

  • were going to do anything at

  • all.

  • And I thought if they did, it

  • clearly would be a sign that

  • Putin had authorized an

  • aggressive assault against this

  • country that to me would have

  • been tantamount to, to war.

  • ♪ ♪

  • >> NARRATOR: It would be

  • Vladimir Putin's revenge for a

  • lifetime of grievances.

  • >> Mr. Gorbachev, tear down

  • this wall.

  • >> NARRATOR: Reviving the old

  • Cold War with new weapons.

  • >> We have the responsibility to

  • advance freedom and democracy.

  • >> NARRATOR: An epic struggle.

  • >> Everywhere that freedom

  • stirs, let tyrants fear.

  • >> NARRATOR: Between the leader

  • of Russia and American

  • democracy.

  • >> The United States will

  • continue to stand up for

  • democracy and the universal

  • rights that all human beings

  • deserve.

  • (man speaking Russian)

  • >> NARRATOR: The story begins on

  • New Year's Eve 1999.

  • In Moscow, the future of Russia

  • was about to change.

  • With his country in turmoil,

  • President Boris Yeltsin had an

  • announcement to make.

  • >> President Yeltsin rose on

  • immense popularity, his sense of

  • love and admiration, was

  • progressively losing that.

  • >> NARRATOR: Across Russia they

  • tuned in.

  • >> (translated): I have made a

  • decision.

  • I've been thinking about it

  • painfully for a long time.

  • Today, at the last day of the

  • departing century, I am

  • resigning.

  • >> I watched it on December 31.

  • I remember I was crying my eyes

  • out.

  • He just said, "Forgive me for

  • what I haven't managed to

  • achieve."

  • >> (translated): I want to ask

  • your forgiveness, for many of

  • our dreams have not come true.

  • (Yeltsin speaking Russian)

  • And for the things that seemed

  • easy, but turned out to be

  • excruciatingly difficult.

  • >> He gave this absolutely

  • heartbreaking speech.

  • He said that he wished that he

  • had done a better job by the

  • Russian people.

  • And he said, "I'm tired, and I'm

  • leaving."

  • It was... It was impossible not

  • to cry.

  • >> NARRATOR: Yeltsin's final act

  • as president: the father of

  • Russian democracy turned over

  • the country to his little-known

  • prime minister, a former KGB

  • officer.

  • (Yeltsin speaking Russian)

  • >> (translated): I have signed a

  • decree giving the

  • responsibilities of the

  • president of Russia to Prime

  • Minister Vladimir Putin.

  • (man speaking Russian)

  • >> NARRATOR: The new president

  • escorted Yeltsin out of the

  • Kremlin.

  • (speaking Russian)

  • >> (translated): Next to him, a

  • young Putin was standing.

  • And Yeltsin shook his hand.

  • And this famous footage,

  • actually, the whole world saw.

  • And Yeltsin said, "Take care of

  • Russia."

  • Just those words.

  • "Take care of Russia."

  • >> Yeltsin's resignation came as

  • a complete surprise to almost

  • everyone.

  • Even Yeltsin's top ministers

  • didn't know about...

  • >> NARRATOR: From his first days

  • as president, Vladimir Putin was

  • obsessed with creating the

  • appearance of a 21st-century

  • leader.

  • >> ...decision to step down

  • could not have come at a better

  • time for Prime Minister Putin,

  • Yeltsin's choice...

  • >> NARRATOR: He commissioned

  • film and photo shoots.

  • >> He is a man who is obsessed

  • with TV.

  • He watches tapes of the evening

  • news over and over and over

  • again to see how he's portrayed,

  • to see how he looks.

  • (conversation in Russian)

  • >> He wears very good suits like

  • any other Western leader.

  • He speaks fluent German and he

  • understands English.

  • >> NARRATOR: Putin cultivated

  • the image of a reformer and a

  • democrat.

  • >> Russian narrative was the

  • victory of democracy, the

  • triumph of popular will, that

  • sort of thing.

  • So a young guy who speaks a

  • foreign language fits into that

  • narrative as long as you ignore

  • everything else about him.

  • >> NARRATOR: Putin quickly

  • learned how to sell himself with

  • the help of his public relations

  • guru.

  • (man speaking Russian)

  • >> (translated): He began to

  • think that everything can be

  • manipulated.

  • Any kind of press, any TV

  • program is all about

  • manipulation.

  • It was decided what TV channels

  • would show what news.

  • >> NARRATOR: They made sure a

  • dynamic, vital and charismatic

  • Putin was on display for all

  • Russians to see.

  • >> He's healthy.

  • He's young.

  • He's virile.

  • He casts himself as a savior.

  • Temperamentally and in style, he

  • is the anti-Yeltsin.

  • He's bringing back a kind of

  • dignity and strength to the

  • Russian presidency that had been

  • missing under Boris Yeltsin.

  • >> President Clinton arrived in

  • Moscow carrying a message of

  • cooperation...

  • >> NARRATOR: Putin's first test

  • with the United States-- a visit

  • from the American president.

  • Bill Clinton had come to the

  • Kremlin to evaluate Putin for

  • himself.

  • >> President Clinton wanted to

  • get a little bit