Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles >> 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.