The latest in an endless flurry of escalating reports alleging Russia “hacked the US election,” NBC News is reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin “personally” directed the entire hacking campaign against Hillary Clinton, with the narrative suggesting he did so primarily because of a “personal vendetta” he had against her.
Accusations surrounding the hacking of Democratic Party websites were a centerpiece of Clinton’s campaign, with the underlying claim that Putin was plotting to get President-elect Donald Trump elected. The allegations started around the Democratic National Convention, when investigations into the hack of one of the sites revealed that the hacker used IP addresses in several countries, including Russia, in the operation.
That the word Russia appeared in the report was well short of “proof,” but was buttressed by a flurry of statements from anonymous officials claiming it was plausible that Russia was behind the plot. Many months later, NBC News continued to lean heavily on anonymous “senior officials” who claim the narrative as simply the “conclusion” of the intelligence community.
Actual evidence, however, appears every bit as scarce now as it did five months ago, and in that time a litany of questions have emerged which appear to shoot holes into the idea that this was some heavily-organized, highly secretive Russian plot, not the least of which is the hackers’ use of a free Russian email account and a Russian server for operations, and conducting apparently all of their business in English language.
While the NBC story draws dramatically broader conclusions than anything written back in July, it reads much the same, citing anonymous officials without evidence, and resting the argument heavily on the idea that it is conceivable.
The one named person that was quoted in the narrative, former Ambassador Michael McFaul, offered more of the same, insisting that Putin’s personal involvement would be “consistent with the Putin that I have watched and used to work with.”
That Putin had a “vendetta” against Hillary at all was similarly based on the fact that Hillary demanded a “full investigation” of Russia’s 2011 election, claiming “fraud and intimidation” was behind Putin’s party winning a substantial plurality ahead of the second-place Communist Party.
Putin criticized the comments five years ago, and probably wasn’t keen on Clinton’s 2016 foreign policy campaigning centering around the idea of getting into a military conflict with Russia as a way to get “leverage” on them. Neither, however, comes close to supporting the idea that he was sitting at the keyboard with a team of top notch hackers orchestrating action against the Democratic Party.
Where this is all going remains to be seen, but the allegations haven’t starved to death from lack of evidence over the past several months, and so long as people can keep inventing new facets to the narrative it likely will last through a set of protracted Congressional investigations. In the meantime, Democrat electors seem to be holding out hope that the increasingly elaborate tales might convince the Electoral College to overturn the election result.