It is certainly the most overblown story in a long time. The casual reader of newspaper headlines might well believe that the Russian government hacked into voting machines, or something of the sort, to influence the presidential election. But that is not the case. If you read the Washington Post story, they are merely talking about the well-known hacks of Democratic National Committee and John Podesta emails. The only news here is that someone at the CIA thinks the Russian government carried out the operation and did so in order to help Donald Trump win the election.
But the supporting information is very thin. The third-hand account in the Post admits that it wasn’t actually the Russian government that did the hacking:
[I]ntelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees.
So is there any reason to think that the Russian government had anything to do with it? We don’t know. There are a great many software experts and sophisticated hackers in Russia. While it is possible that the Russian government directed these intrusions, the Post story contains no indication of what evidence supports this claim.
The Post’s sources are some combination of Democratic senators and Obama administration officials, conveying their impressions of what what unnamed representatives of the CIA told a bipartisan group of senators in a recent briefing. Someday, persuasive evidence supporting the Post’s headline may emerge, but it certainly hasn’t so far.
I suppose it is possible that Russia’s government hoped that Trump would win the election, but it is hard to see why. Such a desire would mean a change in Russian policy. The Russians enthusiastically welcomed Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and the then-head of that country’s Communist Party explained why the Russians don’t like Republicans:
All Republican presidents have always defended national interests, ignoring the interests of other countries of the world. The new US president [Obama] cannot but understand that it is impossible to seek and find answers to many global issues without the participation of such a great country as Russia.
The one thing we know for sure about Donald Trump is that he is pro-America–in the Russians’ eyes, a typical Republican.
Moreover, why would the Russians think that exposing emails from the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and John Podesta would cause Trump to win the election? American newspapers like the Washington Post were saying that Hillary had the election virtually wrapped up. It would be embarrassing if Vladimir Putin has more insight into the U.S. electorate than such organs as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Be that as it may, Donald Trump’s assessment of this kerfuffle is correct: it is just another silly attempt by the Democrats to excuse the fact that they lost the election. The Wikileaks revelations, while entertaining and often interesting, were inside baseball. The voters who swung Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin into the GOP column didn’t do so because they were outraged by John Podesta’s emails, or by the fact that the DNC conspired against Bernie Sanders. For the Democrats to claim otherwise is delusional.
UPDATE: Also, remember when the Russians hacked into the White House’s and State Department’s computer systems in 2014?