According to the New York Times and Washington Post, sources within the intelligence community have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Donald Trump win. This comes in part from another finding, that Russia hacked the Republican National Committee but never disclosed any of those documents. Predictably, the Trump campaign has dismissed the allegations with a smug assault of insults and ad hominem attacks.
Russia hacked the Republican National Committee.
In mid-July, documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers started showing up on WikiLeaks. Trump referred to them often in his stump speeches, as evidence of the insatiable corruption of the Clinton campaign.
In September, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-TX) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Russia had hacked the RNC (click here for video). “important to note, Wolf, that they have not only hacked into the D.N.C. but also into the R.N.C.,” adding “Russians have basically hacked into both parties at the national level, and that gives us all concern about what their motivations are.” But after the RNC denied the hacking took place, McCaul immediately retracted his statement.
However, the Times quotes a senior administration official as saying “We now have high confidence that they [the Russians] hacked the D.N.C. and the R.N.C., and conspicuously released no documents” from the RNC. Furthermore, they report, the intelligence community has identified the hackers as two different Russian teams.
One, called “Cozy Bear” or “A.P.T. 29” by some Western security experts, is believed to have spent months inside the D.N.C. computer network, as well as other government and political institutions, but never made public any of the documents it took. (A.P.T. stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat,” which usually describes a sophisticated state-sponsored cyberintruder.)
The other, the G.R.U.-controlled unit known as “Fancy Bear,” or “A.P.T. 28,” is believed to have created two outlets on the internet, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, to make Democratic documents public. Many of the documents were also provided to WikiLeaks, which released them over many weeks before the Nov. 8 election.
Did Russia intended to help Trump win?
The Times dodges this question, noting that it is not clear whether the intent of any of these hackings was to help Trump win, or just to “disrupt the campaign and undercut confidence in the integrity of the vote.”
But the Post answers that question quite bluntly, quoting a senior U.S. official briefed on the intelligence findings: “It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected… That’s the consensus view.” They go on to explain that,
The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
One particular concern that remains is how the Russians could use the documents they allegedly hacked from the RNC. Blackmail is certainly a very real and frightening possibility.
The Trump response is insult and denial.
Trump and his transition team have repeatedly dismissed the possibility of Russian interference in the election. For example, asked about Russian hacking by Time, he responded “I don’t believe they interfered” while being interviewed for Person of the Year. “Any time I do something, they say ‘oh, Russia interfered.’ Why not get along with Russia? And they can help us fight ISIS, which is both costly in lives and costly in money. And they’re effective and smart. It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
The transition team released an unsigned statement yesterday, insulting the entire intelligence community. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ ”
We must ask how Trump and his team are so confident that the hacking did not take place, given that nearly every intelligence agency has said otherwise. Did they see any of the intelligence presented in the closed-door Senate briefing?
What does it say about the transparency and trustworthiness of Trump and his team that they are willing to make such declarative and dismissive statements against intelligence professionals?
What does it say that they don’t seem to care one iota that a foreign government has exercised control over our election process, and may continue to influence our new leadership?
We say, it sets the country up for a very dangerous four years and does not instill any confidence in the forthcoming administration.
Featured image via Hostile Politics.