Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton today insisted that everyone “knows” that Russian intelligence services were behind the hacks of DNC servers to release emails by way of WikiLeaks, saying that the Russians were making a deliberate attempt to influence the election and that the US would never tolerate that from “an adversary.”
Clinton’s comments are a step further in the narrative of the DNC hack, following a claim by President Obama last week that it was conceivable that the Russians were involved. Democratic officials have attempted to deflect discussion of the contents of the WikiLeaks releases by portraying the matter as a Russian plot, though former US officials say it is impossible to be certain who was behind it.
The Russians and Republican candidate Donald Trump, who Clinton singled out in the same comments, accusing of “encouraging” Putin and showing a troubling willingness to make statements in favor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite his official status as “adversary.”
Several Democrats have previously made similar statements, claiming that either Trump is driving the Russian hacks, or that the Russian hacks are part of a scheme to elect Trump as Russia’s candidate of choice. The evidence that Russia did the hacks in the first place is scant, and the evidence of Trump as being Russia’s Manchurian candidate is wholly nonexistent.
Still, after lower ranking Democratic Party officials were trumpeting that narrative all week last week, Clinton’s comments today suggest this is going to be a protracted part of the campaign, apparently interpreting the substantial media coverage of the accusations as proof the tactic has legs as a potential vote-getter.
At the same time, growing efforts to make allegations against Russia on the DNC hack an overt political issue are risking making the White House response, which at present appears to include NSA-launched revenge attacks on Russian networks, appear themselves to be “part of the campaign,” with all the risk that would entail.
Russia, for its part, denied involvement in the hacks long ago, and similarly denied any particular interest in the US elections, saying they’re trying to stay as far away from them as possible. To that extent that blaming Russia is politically viable, however, Russian denials may not matter.