Making Sense of the Russian Hacking Saga

A quick trip to an alternate timeline:

New York Times, December 7, 2016

  • Trump Campaign Claims Times' Coverage Skewed Election
  • "Hacked" Emails Responsible for Trump Loss

    In a dramatic announcement, failed presidential candidate Donald J. Trump accused the New York Times and the Russian FSB of sabotaging his campaign by hacking and releasing emails from the Trump campaign's mail servers.

    Mr. Trump announced a campaign to convince members of the Electoral College to vote for him even if their state had voted for Mrs Clinton.

    "A source inside the FBI told me that the Russians released these emails because they wanted Crooked Hillary to win," Mr Trump said. "They call electors who change their votes 'faithless electors' but we should call them 'faithFUL' -- faithful to what Alexander Hamilton meant electors to do. They should vote for me, to prove to Vladimir Putin he can't corrupt American elections."

    President-Elect Clinton's spokesperson issued this statement: "As we saw before the election, Mr Trump refused then to promise to accept the election results, and continues to refuse, even going so far as to attempt to subvert the electoral process by suborning electors. President-elect Clinton won fair and square, and Mr. Trump is, at best, grasping at straws."

So I admit it: the "what if a Republican said that" trope has gotten to be so much a cliche that I honestly hate to use it. The problem is, it's so often right.

For the last several weeks, people in the Democratic Party, the press, groups of crazies like Media Matters, and individual nuts like Keith Olbermann have been pushing this idea that the Rooosians are hacking our elections, doom!

So get out your tinfoil hats and let's see if we can make some sense of this mess.

What we know for certain. Starting on July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks started releasing emails obtained from the Democratic National Committee going back well into 2015. These emails proved to be, at the very least, embarrassing to lots of people involved with the Hillary Clinton campaign: they resulted in Debbie Wasserman Schultz being forced to resign as head of the DNC when it became clear she and the DNC were conspiring behind the scenes to prevent Bernie Sanders from being nominated; they also revealed that Donna Brazile, acting head of the DNC, had been passing supposedly confidential debate questions to the Clinton campaign.

In November, WikiLeaks started to release emails obtained from John Podesta's personal email accounts. These also proved embarrassing for many reasons -- not just because of the campaign, but by exposing Podesta and the Center for American Progress conspiring to use political pressure against private citizens, in one notable case very successfully intimidating Roger Pielke Jr. into leaving the Climate Change debate entirely.