If you listen to some voices on the Left, you will hear that Vladimir Putin and Russia hacked the election and caused Hillary Clinton to lose. If you listen to some voices on the Right, you will hear that Putin and Russia did not do what they have been accused of, but if they did, they did a public service by exposing how Clinton Inc works. Both of these camps are wrong.
So what is right?
Let’s look at what the facts show: Vladimir Putin and Russia hacked Democrats and strategically released illegally obtained information in order to inflict damage to Clinton and Democrats. They did not hack or change the results at all. Zero evidence of this exists. At the same time, Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate and her campaign suffered from gross mismanagement. All of this can be and is correct. One does not negate the other from being true.
Russia has engaged in cyber warfare against the United States and its interests for many years (we have done the same). Putin saw an opportunity to not necessarily help Donald Trump win the presidency, but to certainly hobble Hillary Clinton with embarrassing revelation after embarrassing revelation. Additionally, this was an attack on the United States itself. It helped to cast doubt on the American election process, which is held up as the gold standard of elections across the world, and was designed to cause the United States to lose the moral high ground.
In order to accomplish this, Putin and his minions could not be the ones to directly release the information that they had stolen. This required an “independent actor” to provide a level of deniability to Russian intelligence services. Enter Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
Assange has plenty of reason to accept these stolen documents from Russian intelligence. He has spent the past several years living in a state of quasi-asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, as the United States has sought his extradition for releasing classified information that was also stolen. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton fought to bring Assange to justice and even once reportedly asked why the US did not just remove him from the equation via a drone strike. When Putin’s emissaries came calling, Assange gladly agreed to be their pawn.
Wikileaks released a steady flow of damaging information on a daily basis starting at the end of the summer 2016 and ending just after the election. It put Clinton on the defensive and reinforced the (accurate) perception that she is not only not trustworthy, but engaged in inappropriate conduct. If she were to win the presidency, Clinton and her aides would have faced years of hearings for the information stolen by the Russians and released by Wikileaks. It would have helped to hobble, perhaps even cripple, her presidency.
Of course, Clinton did not win the presidential election and did so because of a myriad of reasons. First, she was an awful and inauthentic candidate. She was rigid, awkward and really could not connect to crowds. On top of that, her campaign lacked a message that voters could identify with. Ask any person on the street what Obama and Trump’s messages were and they would almost uniformly say:Obama was “hope and change” and Trump was “make America great again.” For Clinton, the message was unidentifiable. If you asked ten people what it was, you would have received ten different answers. The closest things to a message Clinton had were, “it’s her turn” and “she’s not Trump.”
Then there were staff issues in the Clinton campaign. They ignored multiple warnings from people on the ground in swing states and chose to live in an echo chamber where everything they did was smart. They engaged in bizarre strategies designed to expend precious campaign resources running up the vote total in places such as California and New Orleans. They could and should have utilized those resources in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Russia did not cause Hillary Clinton and her team to run a bad campaign. Neither did Putin.
The Clinton campaign was poorly run and Russia wanted to embarrass it, as well as the United States by releasing illegally obtained information through its willing accomplices, Julian Assange and Wikileaks. All of these are true. It’s time that we stop pretending otherwise.