Political Focus: Russia’s interference with the U.S. election

Melissa Deatsch, Sports Editor

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What happened?

On July 22, Wikileaks, a media outlet specializing in the release of unauthorized documents and secret information, released revealing emails obtained from the accounts of members of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.  

The emails revealed clear favoritism for Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders throughout the democratic primary by the DNC and tainted the party during a tight election. Investigations were then ordered to answer the question: Who hacked the DNC? The answer appears to be Russia.

How do we know it was Russia?

The truth is, we don’t know it was Russia. Some remain skeptical. However, there is strong agreement by cyber security experts and the U.S. government intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the breach.   

Investigations into the hack revealed that the tactics used suggested two Russian intelligence groups gained access to the DNC’s systems and are likely Wikileaks’ source.  

The question then turns to Russia’s motive. As explained in The New York Times, “Initially, many analysts believed that Russia’s goal was to sow confusion and undermine Americans’ faith in their government rather than to steer the election’s outcome.”

However, the CIA recently concluded after further investigation that Russia’s goal was to help Trump win the election. This, however, is not a widely agreed upon conclusion.

The CIA has not released its full report. It has noted that Russian intelligence also hacked Republican National Committee accounts, but didn’t release any of its findings.

No evidence has been released to establish what effect, if any, the hack had on the outcome of the election.

How have the governments reacted?

On Dec. 29, President Barack Obama announced sanctions against four Russian individuals and five Russian entities in relation to the election interference. Obama also expelled 35 Russian diplomats in response to the CIA’s findings.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly responded the following day by saying he would not retaliate against the decision.

He noted that he hopes to improve U.S.-Russian relations during the Trump administration, and that any retaliation would counter that goal.  

Why should you care?

President-elect Donald Trump released a statement after the Obama administration’s announcement, saying it was time for the country to “move on to bigger and better things.” Trump has dismissed the investigations into the hack throughout the entire process, calling them attempts to delegitimize his election win.  

However, many congressional Republicans have joined the Obama administration in outrage over the Russian hack. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan released a statement saying the U.S. must “condemn and push back forcefully against any state-sponsored cyber attacks on our democratic process.”  

Ryan also noted that the response should not be taken as reason to delegitimize Trump’s win. There is no measurement of any effect the hacks may have had on the outcome of the election.

However, Russia has historically aimed to evoke distrust in the U.S. government, and any attempt to do so must be met with a serious response, so we must stay informed on this issue.