The evolving story about the leaked Democratic National Committee emails got quite a bit more complicated today, with cybersecurity experts weighing in that Russian government operatives are likely behind the hack.
If you’re head is swimming, like mine has been, here’s a lowdown on what’s known, what’s hype, and what seems to be straight bunk.
First, the emails indicate some staffers preferred Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Obviously. And not just obviously in the sense that that’s what the scandal is about. I mean obviously in the sense that no one should be surprised in the least that the DNC preferred a candidate who has for decades worked to build relationships with DNC leaders over a candidate who became a Democrat only to run for president, and who assailed party leaders from the beginning of the campaign.
Remember when a speaker at one of Sanders’ rallies called them “corporate whores”? I bet Debbie Wasserman Schultz wasn’t quick to forget that, and it’s just one example in a campaign season full of attacks lobbed by Sanders at establishment Democrats. You know, the people who make up the DNC.
Ever since Sanders effectively lost the nomination, his supporters have been fond of admonishing Clinton supporters to treat them nicely — the old “catching more flies with honey” line. Sanders could have used a bit of honey himself during the campaign. If he’d made some allies within the DNC instead of alienating them at every turn, he might have been more well-respected. Yes, the DNC is supposed to be neutral, but you can’t fault people for having opinions about someone who clearly doesn’t respect them. The question is, did staffers act on those opinions?
Which brings me to point two: The emails do not show evidence of staffers taking specific actions that would affect the outcome.
Looking through this list of the “most damaging” emails, I’m not finding the proof. What I am finding is a whole lot of nothing pretending to be something. For example, one email is given this title by Heavy.com: “Rhode Island, Where Governor Is ‘One of Ours,’ Reduces Polling Locations.” Sounds sinister, doesn’t it? However, when you read through the emails, what you actually find is staffers are learning that Rhode Island, of its own accord, has “reduced polling locations.” The DNC staffers are merely worried about how the Sanders’ camp will react. They suggest reaching out to the governor, who is “one of ours” — in other words, a Democrat! And lest you think Rhode Island reduced the polling locations in order to favor Clinton, take note of this, from the Boston Globe: “Robert Rapoza, director of the state Board of Elections, said they have reduced polling locations for the last four presidential primaries, including the contested 2008 Democratic primary battle between then-US Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”
There’s also the fact that “basically all of these examples came late in the primary — after Hillary Clinton was clearly headed for victory…” In other words, these emails were exchanged after Clinton had all but locked things up, so there’s little chance they changed the outcome.
Now here’s where things get weird. Experts are saying all signs point to Russian intelligence agencies being behind the leaks. Back in June, it was reported that “Russian government hackers” had accessed the computer network of the DNC. Shortly thereafter, stolen documents regarding the DNC’s Trump opposition research began showing up on blogs and sites like The Smoking Gun. On July 13, the hackers leaked more documents to The Hill, these containing some donor information.
Then, on July 22, came the latest email dump, with Wikileaks publishing the more than 19,000 emails that have the Sanders camp riled now.
But why would Russian operatives want to meddle in the U.S. election — specifically to harm the Democrats? Or, more specifically, to help Republican candidate Donald Trump?
Perhaps because Trump has strong financial ties to Russia. A Talking Points Memo piece over the weekend on Trump’s financial ties to Russia pointed out that Trump’s debt load has grown from $350 million to $630 million over the past year, and that he’s been “blackballed” by all major U.S. banks.
And, that post-bankruptcy, Trump has been “highly reliant” on investment capital from Russians who have close ties to Vladimir Putin.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
There’s much more damning information in the full story.
So in a nutshell: DNC staffers preferred Clinton but didn’t, as far as we can see, do anything to affect the outcome of the primaries. And we know this because, as far as experts can tell, Russia is meddling in our election to get Putin’s buddy Trump elected president. And if that were to happen, to whom would Trump be loyal?
As they say, just follow the money.
[CC image credit: Gage Skidmore | Flickr]