Is the DNC leak Putin’s payback for State Department’s involvement in Russia’s elections?

posted at 1:01 pm on July 26, 2016 by John Sexton

As I noted yesterday, there is good reason to believe the hack of the Democratic National Committee was carried out by Russian hackers with connections to the government. Several outside groups hired by the DNC have already determined that is the case and, as Allahpundit pointed out, the FBI is already leaning in that direction as well. In a story published Monday evening, Politico suggests a possible motive for the hack: Putin has a grudge against Hillary Clinton over the State Department’s involvement in the Russian elections in 2011.

Former U.S. officials who worked on Russia policy with Clinton say that Putin was personally stung by Clinton’s December 2011 condemnation of Russia’s parliamentary elections, and had his anger communicated directly to President Barack Obama. They say Putin and his advisers are also keenly aware that, even as she executed Obama’s “reset” policy with Russia, Clinton took a harder line toward Moscow than others in the administration. And they say Putin sees Clinton as a forceful proponent of “regime change” policies that the Russian leader considers a grave threat to his own survival.

“He was very upset [with Clinton] and continued to be for the rest of the time that I was in government,” said Michael McFaul, who served as the top Russia official in Obama’s national security council from 2009 to December 2011 and then was U.S. ambassador to Moscow until early 2014. “One could speculate that this is his moment for payback.”

The idea that Putin was irritated with Clinton over interference in the election seems well supported. Kremlin-controlled RT published a story in December 2011 alleging that the State Department was paying an election observer for stories of election violations:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had harsh words for Clinton, saying she had “set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal … and [they] started active work.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Popular Front Federal Coordinating Council this week, Putin said that “representatives of some foreign states” were paying politically-active NGOs in Russia to “influence the course of the election campaign in our country.”

“We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs and defend our sovereignty,” the Prime Minister said. “It is necessary to think about improving the law and toughening responsibility for those who take orders from foreign states to influence internal political processes.”

Putin, stressing that Russia has nothing against the presence of foreign observers at elections, said Russia would draw the line at interference in its internal affairs from abroad.

“We favor foreign observers monitoring our political electoral processes. We favor this, we are not against this,” he said. “However…when financing comes to some domestic organizations which are supposedly national, but which in fact work on foreign money and perform to the music of a foreign state during electoral processes, we need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs and defend our sovereignty.”

It’s not completely clear from the RT story but it seems all of this came to light after someone hacked the email of the Russian election monitoring group showing the email traffic between them and the U.S. State Department.

Clearly there’s still some speculation here but it does suggest a possible explanation for why the DNC was the subject of this embarrassing leak while the RNC has been passed over by the hackers.


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