If the Russian government is behind the theft and release of embarrassing emails from the Democratic Party, as U.S. officials have suggested, it may reflect less a love of Donald Trump or enmity for Hillary Clinton than a desire to discredit the U.S. political system. A U.S. official who is taking part in the investigation said that intelligence collected on the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails released by Wikileaks on Friday “indicates beyond a reasonable doubt that it originated in Russia.” The timing on the eve of Clinton’s formal nomination this week for the Nov. 8 presidential election has raised questions about whether Russia may have been trying to hurt her, to help Trump, her Republican rival, or to fan populist sentiment against establishment politicians as it has sought to do across Europe in recent years.
“Certainly Russia has become a master at manipulating information for their strategic goals: Witness the information bubble they have created for their threatening behavior in the Crimea, the Ukraine and elsewhere,” said former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden. “A step like this, however, would be really upping their game.”
The emails showed that DNC officials explored ways to undermine U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign against Clinton and raised questions about whether Sanders, who is Jewish, was really an atheist.
The disclosures confirmed Sanders’ frequent charge that the party played favorites against him and clouded a party convention Clinton hoped would signal unity, not division.