Just when you thought the Trump campaign couldn’t get any stranger…it did. Russian hackers doing the bidding, either explicitly or implicitly of the Putin government appear to have hacked the Democratic National Committee. 20,000 e mails have been offered to Wikileaks, which has dutifully released them into the public domain, though Julian Assange claims the source isn’t Russian.
So far, the material exposed has proven that the DNC staff, undoubtedly following orders from the boss, Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, had rigged the primary campaign for Hillary Clinton. But aside from one explicitly offensive e-mail, in which a staffer appeared to believe if the DNC could get Bernie to admit he was an atheist, rather than a practicing Jew, it would scuttle his campaign–there’s been more smoke than fire.
That’s not to say that there might not be more to come. Likely, whoever hacked the DNC server plays to dish out the material in dribs and drabs like Chinese water torture. The best (or worst, depending on your perspective) may be yet to come.
We also don’t know the totality of what the Russians hacked. Did they also gain access to Hillary’s private e-mail server? The FBI claims this is unlikely, though they concede that the Russians did try (and failed). But there remains the distinct possibility that this data dump is but the tip of the iceberg.
All this raises a whole host of issues. Most critical among them is: how could a major American political party do such a terrible job of securing its servers from infiltration? Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel wrote a piece a few months ago quoting cybersecurity experts warning that both parties had woeful security protections. The latest Wikileaks e-mails reveals one blundering bloke ridiculing Frenkel for her claims. Now who looks the fool?
Of course, Wasserman-Schultz had to go. But she should’ve gone long ago. The fact that she remained confirms that the primary system was rigged for Hillary. It also speaks volumes about how a Clinton presidency would behave in similar circumstances: batten down the hatches, circle the wagons, protect our own at whatever cost. See outsiders, even those in your own party, as the enemy.
The Clinton campaign is trying to turn the scandal into an indictment of the seamy Russian hackers. They’re circulating incriminating material in the media focussing on Donald Trump’s inside connections to the Kremlin hierarchy. All this, while not insignificant matters, divert attention from the equally, if not more important issues. Like: why was the DNC all-in for Hillary when it was supposed to be an honest broker between all the candidates? Why did DNC staff, including Wasserman-Schultz lie about their allegiances, saying they were not siding with the Clinton campaign?
If I believed that this data dump was the last of it and that there would be no more damaging material emanating either from the DNC or Hillary’s own e-mail servers I might be inclined to let this slide. If it was a one-off episode it might not make more than a ripple in the overall campaign. But everyone knows there is more to come. What it is is an open question. Is it going to be even more damaging? Or will it be more like the latest release of DNC voice mail messages asking for Michelle Obama’s office phone number?
Trump continues to astound. Today, he beseeched those same Russian hackers to gain access to Hillary’s missing 33,000 e-mails and release them to the public as well. Given that this seems to be one of Trump’s main charges against the Democratic nominee, his request for the assistance of Russian hackers would appear to be a flagrant violation of decades, if not centuries of U.S. election protocol. That is, our elections are fought domestically. We don’t brook foreign interference in electoral politics. There is a proud tradition going all the way back to George Washington’s speech warning against foreign entanglements, that America is fiercely independent and guards its sovereignty jealously.
Presidential candidates simply do not appeal to outside interests to save their campaign. If they do, their campaigns are sunk. But as I wrote above, this is a tradition. And Trump’s campaign is designed to break the mold, perhaps all the molds of presidential politics.
It’s extremely difficult to tell whether Trump’s habit of breaking the china wherever he goes and whatever he says, will cause him to pay a price with the electorate. So far, he seems far beyond Ronald Reagan’s Teflon president. Rather, he’s the candidate who succeeds more the worse his mistakes are. Democrats keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. When will this election revert to form and when will Trump’s campaign finally fall to earth like a busted balloon. It may never happen. And that’s what’s scary.
Not that I’ve changed my mind about Hillary’s candidacy. I remain as firmly convinced as ever that she is not trustworthy, not progressive, not genuine. She is a retread who offers us distant memories of a nostalgic past (Bill Clinton’s presidency), which aren’t so splendid. While Obama was a disappointing president, he did a number of things well. Not the things that were most important to me. But things that were important for the nation. I have no such hopes for Clinton. None.
The watchword of the Democratic convention is “competent,” as in “Hillary is the most competent candidate.” If there’s a more boring word in the English language I don’t know it. At least in the context of a presidential campaign. Give me dreams, give me hope, give me a vision of a better future. But competence? What’s it good for? What does it even mean? That the trains will run on time?
While Obama didn’t end the wars he inherited and promised to end, at least he didn’t start any new wars. I’m convinced that Hillary will pursue military solutions with abandon. Her belligerent comments about Iran make me fear we might attack it during her term. If not Iran, then Syria remains a likely second choice.
I’m not even convinced that keeping Trump out of the White House is enough to justify a vote for Hillary. I’m just sick and tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. If I felt Hillary was benign, I might see a reason to break down and vote for her. But I don’t see a Clinton presidency as benign.
Richard, you can always vote for Jill Stein. or Gary Johnson.
You are wrong about the likelihood Clinton’s e-mail was hacked –
“With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.”
They didn’t find evidence it did happen (buy they wouldn’t expect to find evidence) – but it is likely. There is evidence other accounts used by her correspondents were hacked.
Regarding Trump’s call, he didn’t say the public but rather the FBI –
This isn’t a call to hack (which already occured (if it did) + the information on the servers was wiped clean by Clinton’s lackey lawyers), but rather turning the material over to the authorities so that wrong-doing can be investigated (why do you think this was on a private server to begin with?!).
At the very least it will allow full compliance with FOIA of the former scretary’s e-mails (the FBI did find work-related e-mails in the fragments they were able to retrieve (and they didn’t manage to retrieve all or most) from the wiped-clean disks) and investigation of information security breaches (there were some classified e-mails in the fragments of retrieved material (as well as more items in the non-wiped information).
This is clearly a call to help authorities investigate and clean up any possible lingering information security mess involving this private e-mail server. Providing the material would also provide clear indication (as opposed to speculation) that the server was hacked (and not just potentially hacked).
Richard Silverstein says
@ lepxii: Your comment is so full of crap even you must know this. The idea that the official Russian cyber warfare unit would cooperate with the FBI in any way, shape or form is beyond parody. That Donald Trump can be seen as someone encouraging true justice to be done & do it in a proper, legitimate fashion is also hilarious. Trump is a sociopath. He has no regard for the rule of law unless it’s to his benefit. He’d just as soon collaborate with the FBI as with the KGB or FSB or whatever.
It is clear that the company used by the DNC to identify who hacked has not conducted a thorough investigation or asked enough of the right questions- indeed, it has done an unbelievably incompetent job- so their conclusions are worse than suspect, even if the NY Times has been trumpeting them. Both Ed Snowden and Bill Binney have stated that the NSA would clearly be able to identify the hacker source, yet the Administration has done nothing to clarify or put to rest this issue. So, at this point to say that ‘the Russians did it’ is more of the same propaganda based on speculation rather than fact. As for the Times, I wouldn’t trust anything they write about Russia threats or this manufactured ‘cold war’. It’s sad that what was our most reliable newspaper of record has turned into a yellow journalism rag, but I suppose war is such good business (including for those in Seattle and Everett with Boeing, etc ), that blaming Putin (and attempting to link Trump to Putin in a cheap McCarthyite guilt by association accusation) is the easy way to deflect blame from the DNC, and to continue to fan the flames of war at the same time. I’m a progressive Democrat that is utterly disgusted with the Democratic Party leadership. They are not only a bunch of morons who intentionally or not ignore solid intelligence (just as they did with Iraq, Libya and Syria), they are dangerous- and if there is anything I care about it is the ever growing risk under people like Clinton and Kaine of a serious war breaking out because of their proven recklessness.
It really needs to be noted that the “30,000 missing emails” or “33,000 missing emails” that the secretary of state deleted from the account on her private server ARE NOT MISSING.
They were recovered by the FBI from the equipment last summer and since last week they’ve been in the process of being turned over to the state department for public release.
And there are only two or three thousand of them.
These are well known facts that everybody from the New York Times and Guardian on down appears to have forgotten. Trump may be a maniac, but he has done a great job of making us forget, and reviving this fake issue.
Sorry, this is truly embarrassing, but I’ve been reading the evidence wrong. Or the wrong evidence. Per FBI report Clinton did indeed delete over 30,000 emails, though not, Comey believes, in “an effort to conceal them”, just ordinary periodic cleanups of the inbox. And FBI has not been able to recover most of them in spite of physical possession of the equipment, cooperation from her correspondents and State Department (it’s impossible to imagine how Russian agents could do a more thorough job unless they have magic powers). It is true, though, that the several thousand deleted emails they did recover are being prepared for publication, not concealed.
James Whitney says
Pretty decent this article by Richard Silverstein, especially he is right in saying he is “not even convinced that keeping Trump out of the White House is enough to justify a vote for Hillary.” I agree.
However I consider incorrect his statement that “while Obama didn’t end the wars he inherited and promised to end, at least he didn’t start any new wars.”
Libya in 2011 when he let his secretary of state Clinton persuade him to back up NATO’s attack. It appears that later he was sorry that he allowed it having seen that the result was ISIS and Al-Qaida types have been running amok there ever since. Remember Clinton’s “We came, we saw, he died,” in the CBS interview, he being Ghaddafi, tortured and murdered.
Intervention in the Syrian civil war (along with France) to support the overthrow of al-Assad by similar ISIS and Al-Qaida types, resulting in big number of refugees swamping neighboring countries and also in Europe. Another action encouraged by Clinton. By the way, wonder why France is the target of a series of terrorists attacks (one pretty close to where I live)?
Support for the Saudi attacks in Yemen using U.S. arms.
A bunch of small military actions in various African countries: read Nick Turse’s reports on the TomDispatch site.
Intervention in the Ukraine since at least 2013 organized by Victoria Nuland who stated (in December 2013?) that the U.S. had invested 5 billion dollars in supporting actions by nazi (Bandera nostalgic) militias to overthrow an elected government, cerainly corrupt but not more than the new leaders. Even today there is heavy fighting in the Donbass region although little mention of this in the U.S. press.
Support for the overthrow of an elected govenment in Honduras under Obama, Clinton secretary of state at the time.
Finally, thanks to edding for his (her?) useful comments.
Richard Silverstein says
@Esti: I’ll take it under advisement. But no, WA is not a swing state. We are True-blue. Trump will lose here by 20 pts.
While Obama didn’t end the wars he inherited and promised to end, at least he didn’t start any new wars.
Excuse me. Obama what do you think happened in Libya and Syria. Perhaps we didn’t initiate those wars the US most certainly promoted them and allowed them expand. If Obama had stayed out and informed our allies (Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia) to not get involved those wars would not have happened.
Harry Mairson says
“I’m not even convinced that keeping Trump out of the White House is enough to justify a vote for Hillary.”
I really, really regret having to disagree with you on this one. It would be plausible if any “moderate” Republican had gotten the nomination—someone like Kasich, or Romney, or Bush. But Trump is a narcissistic sociopath, even by the standards of presidential candidates. You’ve got to be a bit crazy to want to be President in the first place, but there are degrees of this craziness.
Hillary Clinton is an incredibly weak candidate. Yet it says volumes that apart from Sanders, there was no credible opponent among the Democrats for the last four years—in a party that has to be loaded with ambitious people who would like to be president. But the Clintons have had control of the Democratic party apparatus (maybe with Obama’s tacit acquiescence) for years, which has kept any of those with ambitions to get anywhere near the prize.
I readily acknowledge that it’s a terrible choice, but you know that either Trump or Clinton is going to be the next president. I am not in the least a fan of Clinton, and I’m totally turned off by her corrupt sellout to the Israel lobby, Haim Saban, etc. You might be thinking, “Let Trump really screw it up, and this will subsequently force the pendulum leftwards,” but if you ask, “Who in this unsavory pair would I prefer?”, I really find it hard to believe that forced to choose, you would vote for the Republican candidate, or even vote randomly because there is no difference.
Richard Silverstein says
@Harry: I certainly would never vote for any Republican, esp. not Trump. But as for voting for Jill Stein or writing in a candidate, I haven’t decided whether I’ll make those choices. I may change my mind about Hillary, but I doubt it.
If the polls are close, think of the destruction Bush caused, and the consequences the world still lives with (or rather dies with) today, and vote for Clinton.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Elisabeth: Oh God, do I have to???
Trump will lose in a landslide and I live in Blue State. So Hillary will not need my vote.
You are lucky you live in a blue state (I forgot that), but a lot of people in other places will have to hold their noses while voting!
I could vote for Hillary even knowing she lacks character and is unusually dishonest. However what makes it impossible to vote for her is her extremely dangerous policies towards Russia. What is worse, she is now whipping up hatred towards the Russians with her campaign. By the time she is elected she will have millions of liberal Democrats clamoring for war. I can see this trend growing among my acquaintances. Have you noticed that many Democrats seem to believe that hacking the non-governmental servers of the DNC is an act of war! At least Trump has as a priority work out our differences with Russia through negotiation.
Arie Brand says
I couldn’t agree more. This woman scares me no end. Apart from the fact that she is a “congenital liar” (as the late William Safire called her in a NYT column of twenty years ago) one can hold her co-responsible for the fateful decision to expand NATO, against the advice of seasoned Russia specialists such as George Kennan and also against commitments made by the US at the end (as many hoped) of the cold war era. Co-responsible because she didn’t only advice Bill on bombing Serbia, did she.
David Stockman wrote:
“The startling thing in hindsight is that many of America’s most respected and experienced cold war thinkers saw the absolute folly of NATO expansion long before a single former member of the Soviet bloc had been added. The father of the “containment” doctrine and the original instigator of Truman’s excessively and unfortunately aggressive anti-Soviet policy, George Kennan, had no doubt about the distilled lessons of half a century:
Clinton made what quintessential Russian specialist Ambassador George Kennan called a “fateful error.” Writing in the New York Times on Feb. 5, 1997, Kennan asserted: “Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.”
“Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”
Quite a few years later (2009 in fact) another ex- US Ambassador to Russia , Jack Matlock, came up with a judgment fully confirming Kennan’s view.
“The Clinton administration’s decision to expand NATO to the East rather than draw Russia into a cooperative arrangement to ensure European security undermined the prospects of democracy in Russia, made it more difficult to keep peace in the Balkans and slowed the process of nuclear disarmament started by Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev.”
(quoted by John Walsh)
Matlock judged the Clintons to be incompetent and devoid of vision and changed his own party membership because of them.
Now the NATO area is full of nuclear tripwires and the irresponsibility of some of its newer members scares the more established ones.
Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, has recently protested
against the sabre rattling and “the war cries” (“Kriegsgeheul”) at Germany’s eastern border in the NATO exercise “Anaconda”(formally it is an internal Polish exercise but virtually all NATO members participate). According to the magazine Der Spiegel Berlin is of the opinion that Poland deliberately provoked by inviting non-NATO members Ukraine and Georgia as well. Germany itself sent only a token representation.
As a non-American I am not allowed to vote (though the future of my nearest and dearest is at stake as well). However if I had to and the choice was between a lying war monger who is too old to change and another unsavoury character who thinks that war mongering is bad for business I would hold my nose, avert my gaze and go for the latter. In spite of a lifetime record of being on the left.
Just for the world to have a minimally lesser chance of disappearing in a mushroom cloud.
Baiting a superpower in decline, and breaking promises about not expanding Nato has been incredibly stupid, and will indeed be a very dangerous part of Clinton’s policy. Still, the idea that that other, that narcissistic toddler, would have to be preferred……. No, I can’t bring myself.
Eliszabeth. I guess we agree sort of. Expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders was a colossal mistake. It was made by Dems and Repubs alike. Bill started the expansion and Bush II added to it. Both Dems and Repubs were supporting NATO membership for both Georgia and Ukraine. Today Europe is opposed. I think they know that would easily lead to WWIII. Unfortunately Hillary is surrounded with that who want Ukraine and Georgia in NATO. The EU is right., that would lead to war. Is Hillary willing to back off and recognize Russian concerns? I seriously doubt it. You seem to think Hillary has some level of pragmatism and would try to avoid WWIII. We disagree on that point.
Made in Quebec says
Allegations, insinuations and opinions are not facts. It’s a romanian hacker named Guccifer 2.0 who hacked the DNC email database.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Made in Quebec: Sez you…And you’d know this how? Through direct knowledge I presume?
For me, it’s the mossad who did it…..or an other whistleblower of some kind like said William Binney.
Remember the hack of Sony Pictures some years ago? Who did it, North Korea, like the US government and all Western puppet media accused them? Of course not, it was an ex-Sony employee!
Why do I feel that no one learns from the history…