The Russian government has been accused of interfering in the U.S. presidential election through hacks of Democratic campaign emails, including those of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
Clinton called out Russia for putting itself into the election during the second debate, and is likely to continue to use that tactic during the third debate.
Podesta told reporters Russia appears to want Trump to become president, possibly because he has shown similar policy positions to the Kremlin or because of his business ties to the country.
The Clinton campaign has also said that the hackers, which experts have said are likely Russian gang members possibly working on behalf of the government, may have fabricated some of the leaked emails, which were distributed by Wikileaks.
“The pattern is they hack, they leak truthful things, and then they build up to leaking documents that are either doctored or wholly fabricated,” Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director, said in a statement.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Obama Administration Has Officially Accused Russia of Hacking Democratic Campaign Emails to Interfere With the Election
While accusations that the Russian government was behind the hacks of the DNC and other emails have circulated for several months, it is now the official position of the Obama administration that the country is interfering in the presidential election.
Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson and the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, addressed the matter in a statement last week:
These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.
The U.S. government has said it will respond to the hacking, but has not released details of what that response will entail.
“The president has made it clear that we will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing,” a senior administration official told Politico. “Consistent with the practice we have adopted in the past, the public should not assume that they will necessarily know what actions have been taken or what actions we will take.”
2. Putin Has Said Russia Has ‘No Intention’ of Influencing the Election’s Outcome
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he wants to assure Russia’s “american friends and partners” that he has “no intention of influencing the outcome of the race,” according to NBC News.
“We don’t know for sure how it will be after the elections,” Putin said, according to the TASS news agency. “We don’t know whether … [Donald] Trump will be implementing his intentions, how far will he go in cooperating with us or whether Mrs. Clinton, if she becomes president, will implement her threats and her harsh rhetoric about Russia. She may correct her position, too. All of it is still unknown to us.”
He said Russia has been made an issue in the election as part of a “well-oiled system of distracting the voters from domestic problems.”
“I want to calm down everybody, including our American friends and partners – we have no intention of influencing the election campaign in the U.S.,” Putin said.
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislayk denied the Obama administration claims that his country is behind the email hacks.
“We are watching very carefully the election campaign in this country,” Kislyak said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t interfere (in) the internal affairs of the United States, neither by my statements nor by electronic or other means.”
3. Clinton Says Russia Is ‘Doing It to Influence the Election for Donald Trump’
Clinton addressed the issue of Russia interfering in the election during the second presidential debate, saying President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government want Trump to win.
“Believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected,” Clinton said, according to Fortune. “They’re doing it to influence the election for Donald Trump.”
Trump said that he would be a better negotiators with Russia if elected.
“She talks tough against Russia, but our nuclear program has fallen way behind,” Trump said at the debate, adding that Russia’s nuclear arsenal has been upgraded recently, while America’s has become “old, tired and exhausted.”
4. Trump’s Supporters & Wikileaks Say the Clinton Campaign Is Using Russia to Deflect From the Content of the Hacked Emails
Trump and his supporters have said Clinton is using Russia to deflect from the content inside the leaked emails, calling it a “total deflection,” according to The Guardian.
He also questioned whether the hacking came from Russia.
“Russia has no respect for our country. If it is Russia – nobody knows. It could be China. It could be somebody sitting in his bed,” Trump said. “I never met Putin. I don’t know who Putin is,” Trump said.
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” Trump said. “[Clinton’s] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, acknowledged there is evidence implicating Russia.
“I think there’s no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction, and we should follow it where it leads,” Pence said on Fox News. “And there should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.”
5. Trump Has Praised Putin & Questions Have Been Raised About His Financial Ties to Russia
Trump has praised Putin during comments at rallies and debates, raising eyebrows about his connection to the country.
Others have questioned what connection Trump’s businesses have with Russia. Clinton said at the second debate that Trump should release his tax returns to help answer those questions.
“We deserve answers,” she said at the second debate. “We should demand that he release all of his tax returns.”