With no specific evidence, President Barack Obama’s administration explicitly claimed the Russian government was responsible for stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee and other individuals and organizations closely linked to the Democratic Party. The accusation came just as WikiLeaks published emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The New York Times unquestionably advanced this accusation in a story written by David Sanger and Charlie Savage. In facilitating the spread of this unsubstantiated accusation, they quoted director of national intelligence, James Clapper, and the Homeland Security Department, which stated the emails published were “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement added.
Remarkably, the New York Times published a story on the emails published by WikiLeaks, including a document containing excerpts from transcripts to Goldman Sachs and other banks which Clinton refused to make public during the primary.
The story described Clinton’s “easy comfort with titans of business” and how she “embraced unfettered international trade” and a budget plan that would have cut Social Security. But there was no indication from the Times that they viewed this journalism as aiding and abetting the Russian government’s plans to interfere with the U.S. election.
A report from the Washington Post on WikiLeaks’ publication of emails contained the line, “The FBI did not immediately say if the Russians were behind the alleged hack.”
The Associated Press also unquestionably repeated this allegation, publishing a story under the headline, “Private Clinton speeches leaked in hacking blamed on Russia.” It noted a part of the joint statement from Clapper and Homeland Security that suggested the hacking was “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”
Then the AP obliviously described the contents of these excerpts from leaked speeches without any details related to the frame of their story—why Russia believes leaking emails of Democratic Party officials will help them successfully frustrate the election. In fact, both Clinton and Donald Trump are already considered to be the most dishonest and untrustworthy presidential candidates in recent American history.
Aside from emails, which the U.S. government insists without specific evidence are the product of Russian interference, the Clinton campaign has done quite a bit to undermine her campaign on their own. The contents of non-hacked emails have plagued the campaign, and just this past week, former President Bill Clinton criticized Obama’s chief achievement, the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “crazy system,” even though Hillary Clinton has pledged to maintain and expand the ACA.
Podesta condemned the release of his emails. “I’m not happy about being hacked by the Russians in their quest to throw the election to Donald Trump,” He also added, “Don’t have time to figure out which docs are real and which are faked.”
The Clinton campaign told the press, “Earlier today the U.S. government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized WikiLeaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump’s candidacy.”
“We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by Julian Assange, who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton. Guccifer 2.0 has already proven the warnings of top national security officials that documents can be faked as part of a sophisticated Russian misinformation campaign.”
But as the Washington Post acknowledged the Clinton campaign “did not say that the emails released Friday concerning Clinton’s speeches had been faked.”
Jonathan Chait, a columnist for New York Magazine who has served the role as unofficial Obama administration stenographer and proud liberal defender of Clinton, published a pathetic and amateurish blog post glibly poking at the left for doubting U.S. government claims about Russian involvement. But Chait himself noted the government “hasn’t released proof for its conclusions.”
Clinton campaign spokesperson Brian Fallon expressed his disgust with reporters, who dug through the Podesta emails. “Just like Russia wanted,” he declared on Twitter.
When emails were published in July, right before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and they showed the DNC had conspired against the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Clinton campaign immediately cast the emails as a part of a plot masterminded by Russia to wreak havoc on American politics.
The Obama administration has resorted to this propaganda, and multiple media organizations have largely accepted this frame without any healthy skepticism. However, the evidence for such Russian interference remains incredibly thin, if not entirely nonexistent.
Regardless of Assange’s views of Clinton, unmistakably Assange and others working for and with WikiLeaks are interested in journalism. Reporters at media outlets, who share the contents of these emails—just like WikiLeaks—are engaged in journalism. This scrutiny greatly upsets the Clinton campaign to the extent that they feel they must slander reporting as the product of Kremlin-supported meddling in the election.
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Claims against Russia are clearly intended to distract from the contents of what WikiLeaks published. If the Clinton campaign can convince the public to talk about how the emails were hacked and make it part of a kind of frightening Russian conspiracy, then the revelations are overshadowed to their benefit.
At any point, the Clinton campaign could have released transcripts of her paid speeches on their own terms. They could have argued, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias flatteringly did, that her speeches represent the same Hillary Clinton that the public has come to know and support. The campaign rejected calls for transparency, and the result is this WikiLeaks disclosure, as well as future disclosures, which will occur far beyond their control and make it hard for them to control perceptions of Clinton.
As one email revealed, remarks from her paid speeches were flagged by campaign staff as potentially damaging because Clinton touted her relationship with Wall Street as a senator, she claimed she needed Wall Street funding in order to run a successful political campaign, and she suggested Wall Street was only being held accountable because of political reasons.
Here are some nuggets from a document containing flagged excerpts of remarks from Clinton’s paid speeches:
—At a Goldman Sachs summit on October 29, 2013, appearing to respond to the climate against the top one percent fueled by organizing by Occupy Wall Street activists and other groups, Clinton argued in Washington, D.C, “There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks. It just becomes very onerous and unnecessary.”
—During a Goldman Sachs-sponsored symposium on October 24, 2013, Clinton declared, “The people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” She suggested politicians defer to those in the banking industry to determine what regulations would work and not work. This sentiment was expressed again in remarks to Deutsche Bank on October 7, 2014, when she said financial reform “really has to come from the industry itself.”
—On Syria, Clinton told the Jewish United Fund at a dinner in October 2013 that she favored “more robust, covert action” from the U.S. government, but Saudi Arabia was “complicating” the war by shipping large amounts of weapons “pretty discriminately.”
—Clinton lauded natural gas fracking, saying government research helped the idea become available to the marketplace. She said during a speech to Deutsche Bank on April 24, 2013, “I’ve promoted fracking in other places around the world. Because when you look at the stranglehold that energy has on so many countries and the decisions that they make, it would be in America’s interest to make even more countries more energy self-sufficient. So I think we have to go at this in a smart, environmentally conscious way, pursuing a clean-energy alternative agenda while we also promote the advantages that are going to come to us, especially in manufacturing, because we’re now going to produce more oil and gas.”
—In a speech at tinePublic on June 18, 2014, Clinton accused “phony environmental groups” that she believes are funded by the Russians of being responsible for the opposition to oil pipelines and natural gas fracking. “I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.”
—While speaking at an event for JP Morgan on April 22, 2014, Clinton said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “did a great service to China, Russia, Iran and others.”
—Clinton told a summit hosted by Goldman Sachs on October 29, 2013 that “WikiLeaks was a big bump in the road, but I think the Snowden material could be potentially much more threatening to us.” She argued Snowden gave adversaries a blueprint on how the U.S. operates. “Why is that in any way positive?”
Also, during this same event, she told a story about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi crying over the WikiLeaks disclosures.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. I was Secretary of State when WikiLeaks happened. You remember that whole debacle. So out come hundreds of thousands of documents. And I have to go on an apology tour. And I had a jacket made like a rock star tour. The Clinton Apology Tour. I had to go and apologize to anybody who was in any way characterized in any of the cables in any way that might be considered less than flattering. And it was painful. Leaders who shall remain nameless, who were characterized as vain, egotistical, power hungry —
MR. BLANKFEIN: Proved it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: — corrupt. And we knew they were. This was not fiction. And I had to go and say, you know, our ambassadors, they get carried away, they want to all be literary people. They go off on tangents. What can I say. I had grown men cry. I mean, literally. I am a friend of America, and you say these things about me.
MR. BLANKFEIN: That’s an Italian accent.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Have a sense of humor.