The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced on Monday that it was investigating the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers. The Clinton campaign has hinted at a supposed connection between the hack and the so-called “bromance” between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. In a statement, the FBI said it was working to determine the nature and scope of the “cyber intrusion,” and that it would “continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
On Friday, Wikileaks published approximately 20,000 emails copied from the servers. The emails confirmed, at least in part, earlier accusations that institutions within the Democratic Party were not only biased against Bernie Sanders but actively working to undermine his primary campaign. DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced her resignation on Sunday.
On Monday, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told the Associated Press that there was “a kind of bromance going on” between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. While, at first blush, this smacks of conspiracy theory, it’s not entirely implausible. From the New York Times:
Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult. But researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers. Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects. Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess.
There is no shortage of reporting on the Kremlin’s attempts to influence (or at least benefit from) the chaos Donald Trump has introduced into the U.S. presidential election. What’s more, Trump surrogate and VP contender Michael Flynn, a retired general and the former head of the Pentagon’s powerful in-house intelligence agency, makes semi-regular appearances on Russia Today, an ostensibly independent news agency that nevertheless functions as part of the Russian government’s propaganda war against the West.
Trump has tried to laugh—does Donald Trump laugh?—off this theory on Twitter.
The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2016
This tweet doesn’t actually make any sense. Trump is trying to deny the possibility that “Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails” as a “joke...which should never have been written (stupid).” However, as evidence of the joke’s stupidity, he writes that “Putin likes me,” when this is precisely the narrative that his Democratic critics are working to advance: That he is a Russian puppet being manipulated by Putin.
Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said on Sunday that the allegations are “pure obfuscation on the part of the Clinton campaign.” He added: “What they don’t want to talk about is what’s in those emails.”
Before joining the Trump campaign, Manafort worked for the better part of a decade as a top campaign advisor to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian president and close Putin ally whose overthrow in 2014 led to the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.