With the Russian DNC hack exposing the party's secrets to both the Russians and the GOP, it's important to remember that Hillary Clinton wasn't the only victim that leaks were used against in the 2016 elections. Several House Democrats were done in by Putin and friends as well.
South Florida has long been a laboratory for some of the nation’s roughest politics, with techniques like phantom candidates created by political rivals to siphon off votes from their opponents, or so-called boleteras hired to illegally fill out stacks of absentee ballots on behalf of elderly or disabled voters.
But there was never anything quite like the 2016 election campaign, when a handful of Democratic House candidates became targets of a Russian influence operation that made thousands of pages of documents stolen by hackers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington available to Florida reporters and bloggers.
“It was like I was standing out there naked,” said Annette Taddeo, a Democrat who lost her primary race after secret campaign documents were made public. “I just can’t describe it any other way. Our entire internal strategy plan was made public, and suddenly all this material was out there and could be used against me.”
The impact of the information released by the hackers on candidates like Ms. Taddeo in Florida and others in nearly a dozen House races around the country was largely lost in the focus on what was done to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But this untold story underscores the effect the Russian operation had on the American electoral system.
“This is not a traditional tit-for-tat on a partisan political campaign, where one side hits the other and then you respond,” said Kelly Ward, executive director of the D.C.C.C. “This is an attack by a foreign actor that had the intent to disrupt our election, and we were the victims of it.”
Democrats in state races were also victims of WikiLeaks.
The intrusions in House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina can be traced to tens of thousands of pages of documents taken from the D.C.C.C., which shares a Capitol Hill office building with the Democratic National Committee.
The document dump’s effectiveness was due in part to a de facto alliance that formed between the Russian hackers and political bloggers and newspapers across the United States. The hackers, working under the made-up name of Guccifer 2.0, used social media tools to invite individual reporters to request specific caches of documents, handing them out the way political operatives distribute scoops. It was an arrangement that proved irresistible to many news outlets — and amplified the consequences of the cyberattack.
“It’s time for new revelations now,” the Guccifer 2.0 website proclaimed, as it began to pass out the D.C.C.C. documents, trying to entice reporters to look at them on their own. “All of you may have heard about the D.C.C.C. hack. As you see I wasn’t wasting my time! It was even easier than in the case of the D.N.C. breach.”
Cybersecurity consultants believe the hacking of the D.C.C.C. took place around March or April of 2016 after a staffer clicked on a so-called phishing email. The D.C.C.C. shut down its computer system for a week — from the moment it learned of the attack in June. But it was already too late to close the door. The consequences started to become clear in August when the hackers released the home addresses, cellphone numbers and personal email addresses of Democratic House members.
Internal Democratic party documents, including strategies and research, were used against Democrats in multiple close House races. Those races were won by Republicans in nearly every case.
The Russians didn't just "damage our democracy". They went after Democrats to keep Republicans in power. They did that for a reason. And guess who was behind it?
Why, ol' Vlad himself.
U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.
And of course, Trump knew. So now we have a major, major problem.
What will President Obama's response be?