Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that there are accusations circling that the Russians hacked the American election. When I first heard about this I pushed it off as another round of post-election excuse making at best, and whining at worst. However, as of yesterday the White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, spoke about the hacking as fact and that took it to another level for me. He then took it to an even higher level by accusing Donald Trump of being personally involved in it. If true, then we have a President Elect who is illegitimate, utterly corrupt and a scandal on our hands so big that it makes the Watergate break-in look like a walk in the park. I decided to look into this and this is what I know so far.
When you tell me that something has been “hacked” you are telling me that something has been broken into. When we are speaking literally then we are talking about computers or systems of computers. When you are telling me that an election has been hacked then the impression that I am getting is that computer-based election systems have been broken into and the results have been tampered with. Obviously that is an extremely serious charge. The first problem that I discovered while investigating this was that nobody reputable is making that accusation, not even Josh Earnest. When they make the accusation that the Russians “hacked” our election what they are really saying is that the Russians intentionally and successfully “influenced” our election. There is a huge difference there, a massive difference. I like to think that most Americans are like me, that when you tell them our election has been hacked they think you are saying that the results have been changed by tampering with votes. That is not at all what people are accusing so I am a bit confused as to why they are even using that language and I am a bit perturbed because I find it deceiving. Maybe you aren’t like me. Maybe when you heard the election had been hacked you didn’t think that our election computer systems were broken into. If that’s you I would like to hear from you because I think the difference between “hacking an election” and “influencing an election” is pretty big.
So, the election wasn’t hacked but was anything truly hacked in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election? Yes. Computer systems of the Democratic National Committee were hacked into and tons of emails were turned over to Julian Assange’s Wikileaks organization. These emails revealed tremendous corruption inside of the DNC including favoritism being shown to Clinton in order to insure the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the primary. As a result of these revelations, DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Shultz had to step down and was replaced. Some of these emails belonged to the account of Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta and were embarrassing to the campaign. In one email, Podesta states that Clinton “has begun to hate everyday Americans.” This was picked up by right wing talk shows and propaganda sites and reported out of context. The true context was that she didn’t like the term and didn’t want it to become a part of her campaign verbiage. Instead, right wingers used it to advance a false narrative, a lie, that Clinton is an elitist that despises the common person.
Very quickly after the release of the first batch of these emails the story surfaced that it was the Russians that hacked into the DNC and then turned the emails over to Wikileaks. The story further advanced to say that Putin was trying to help Donald Trump get elected. Many believe this was an intentional sidestep by the Clinton Campaign to get the focus away from the content of the emails and redirect interest into how the emails were obtained. The press found the latter to be a sexier story so the content of the actual emails was largely ignored by anyone outside of the right wing world. These emails continued to be released by Wikileaks in batches right up until a week or two before the election. They were a constant annoyance to the Clinton campaign but they never really obtained the traction hoped for by right wingers.
ENTER DONALD TRUMP
At a press conference in July he was generally asked if he thought that the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC and then turned the embarrassing emails over to Wikileaks. The video of his response can be seen here and the full press conference can be found here. The precise question immediately preceding his response at the 12:30 mark of the press conference was “You say ‘let’s get tough.’ Why not get tough on Putin and say ‘Stay out.’?” The reporter asked the question as if Russian involvement was a fact and he wanted to know why Trump wasn’t telling Putin to stop helping the Trump campaign by releasing embarrassing emails that hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Again, the question was posited as if Putin helping Trump was a fact and the reporter wanted to get Trump on record. Trump’s response was classic Trump so you need to at least watch the shorter clip. At the end of the response Trump mocks the entire idea of a Russian hack by suggesting that if Russia has access to the DNC and Clinton Campaign emails then maybe they can find the 30,000 emails that were deleted by Clinton people after being subpoenaed by the FBI. If you remember, at that time the FBI was still looking into the private Clinton email server scandal and was trying to recover the destroyed evidence and determine whether its destruction was intentional, which would have been a criminal act. Trump’s intention was clear, to mock the idea that Russia can hack into the DNC but our own people at the FBI can’t find 30,000 missing emails. The fallout from this moment was that it was spun around to become “Trump asked Russia to hack the DNC and thereby help his campaign.” I found a few obvious problems with this narrative. One, the DNC was already hacked and the emails had already been turned over to Wikileaks. There was nothing left to hack. When the reporter asked Trump why he didn’t get tough by telling Putin to stop hacking and releasing emails it was a bad question. Russia wasn’t releasing emails, Wikileaks was. It was already a done deal so there was nothing left to warn Putin about even if the Russians were behind the original hack. This false story about Trump asking the Russians to hack into the USA gained major traction and has continued to circulate in its inaccurate form to this very day. It was even repeated by Josh Earnest yesterday, December 15th, from the podium of the press briefing room in the White House. You can watch the video for yourself and unless you have the most partisan of minds you will easily discern the truth of what was actually said and its context as an attempt to mock the idea of a Russian hack with the intention of helping the Trump campaign. If we can figure this out why can’t Josh Earnest and the press?
ENTER JULIAN ASSANGE
During all of this I’m thinking “Why don’t they just ask Assange how his Wikileaks got hold of the emails?” Well, Wikileaks is usually very tight lipped about their sources because trust is what encourages hackers to turn information over to them. One thing to know is that Wikileaks is very careful to verify things before they release them. To my knowledge Wikileaks has never been wrong. I had heard that Assange was going to appear on the Sean Hannity radio show yesterday so I sucked it up and suffered through the first hour of the show until Assange came on at the top of the second hour. You can hear a repeat of segments of this interview on Hannity’s TV show here. He said that he was going to talk about the source of the emails, even though they don’t normally do that, because of the ongoing attempts to sidetrack the issues revealed by the emails by focusing on how they were obtained. Hannity asked him point blank if he had gotten the emails from the Russians and Assange said, “No,” they did not come from any government. Apparently the source is someone within the Democratic Party who was upset at the corruption and that the DNC was rigging the primary against Bernie Sanders. End of story unless you believe Assange is lying and then you need to tell me why you think Assange would lie about this. The bottom line is that the Russians did not hack the DNC and/or the Clinton Campaign and then turn over the emails to Wikileaks for the purpose of helping Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton. Somebody internally betrayed them.
ENTER THE CIA
Many news stories have been written reporting that the CIA has determined that the Russians are behind this. All of these stories are based on leaks, ie rumors, being circulated by unnamed sources within the CIA. These sources could easily be political appointees who are helping to undermine the incoming Trump administration. If there are actual career CIA “spooks” who are leaking information to the press then that’s almost as disturbing to me as the idea of a Russian hack because our secrets are not safe then.
There are stories that are not based on rumor. Before he resigned, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper issued a statement with Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, suggesting that Russia had deployed hackers to mess with our election. Prior to a recent security summit he said, “The emails released on sites like WikiLeaks are consistent with methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” That’s hardly proof and he’s also made statements to Congress indicating that his agencies don’t have “good insight” into a direct connection between Wikileaks and the Russians. Both men are political appointees so you will have to make up your own mind as to why they are saying what they are saying.
Was our election hacked, ie, votes tampered with? No.
Was our election influenced by emails that were hacked? Yes, or at least probably. We can debate how much the emails hurt Hillary Clinton but I am of the opinion that there are many fence sitters who were, at the very least, convinced not to vote for her because of the corruption revealed in those emails.
Did Russia do the hacking? No, unless Julian Assange is lying. You can’t get much closer to the horse’s mouth than the guy running the website that leaked the emails unless the original hacker comes forward.
Did Putin want Trump to win and therefore had motive to hack the election? Yes, but I didn’t talk about that did I? I’m leaving that for another post.
A friend of mine dubbed me “The voice of reason in a very unreasonable world” which I am flattered by because I am less than that. Having said that, if you enjoyed my writing I invite you to scroll to the very bottom of this page where there is a button labeled “Follow”. If you press that button you will receive a notification whenever this blog is updated with new posts. Thank you for reading.