First, the F.B.I. warned state election officials in August that Russian hackers had exported voter registration data from a computer system in at least one state, and had pierced the systems of another. Second, on October 7th the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint statement that accused Russia of launching computer hacks “intended to interfere with the US election process”(2). It stated that the US intelligence community “is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails” belonging to the Democratic National Committee. Third, yesterday The Washington Post published evidence the Russian propaganda effort helped spread “fake news” during the election that helped Trump win.
There were numerous “fake news” stories that circulated during the election. One, for example, claimed that the F.B.I. agent that leaked the Clinton emails was killed. Others suggested Hillary Clinton was hiding a serious health condition. We now have evidence Russian agents helped circulate stories like these to influence our election, just like they did during the Brexit vote and other elections in Europe.
The Post reports that,
Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.
One of the producers of The Rachel Maddow Show, Steve Benen, added some interesting information to this story.
What’s especially striking about reports like these is the picture that emerges when we add the details to the picture that already exists. Consider:
* The FBI and other American agencies concluded that Russian hackers did, in fact, steal Democratic materials in the hopes of helping Trump win the U.S. presidential election.
* The FBI also launched “a preliminary inquiry into Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s foreign business connections,” including connections in Russia and Putin’s allies in Ukraine.
* Shortly after Election Day, Russian officials said they were in contact with leading members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, despite the Republican campaign’s claims to the contrary.
* McClatchy reported over the weekend that since Election Day, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin “have spoken at least twice by phone,” and that doesn’t count the additional contacts between the two men’s aides. The report added, “That’s more contact than Trump is known to have had with any other world leader since he defeated Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.”
Remember, each of these stories are just from the last month or so.
Eric Chenoweth, the co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, wrote in the Washington Post over the holiday weekend, “In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.”