Pelosi to Paul Ryan: Will the GOP solemnly promise not to use any hacked material against us in the campaign?

A silly request in an age of ubiquitous media, but understandable as a form of preemptive damage control.

From her letter today to Ryan:

Russia’s insidious efforts to tamper with democratic elections are already well-documented throughout Europe, in Ukraine, the Republic of Georgia, and even Germany. They have also been known to doctor the documents they release.

Russia’s cyber-attack is an unprecedented assault on the sanctity of our democratic process. We must come together to say that defending our democracy from Russia’s meddling is more important than any advantage or disadvantage in this election.

It is my hope that you will join me in opposing the NRCC and the DCCC from using any documents from Russian criminal cyber-attacks in this campaign.

Democrats and Republicans must present a united front in the face of Russia’s attempts to tamper with the will of the American people.

If you’re Ryan, why not agree? Any new dirt on Hillary and the DNC that Wikileaks coughs up will be broadcast far and wide in the media anyway. Republicans will certainly be whispering about it to reporters off the record to try to promote the most damaging revelations. All Ryan would be committing to would be eschewing mentions of the hacked material in campaign ads. And who cares about campaign ads? Hillary’s outspent Trump a gajillion to zero on ads so far this year and he leads nationally right now if CNN is to be believed. The core question here is merely whether you like your political attacks with fingerprints on them or not.

The NRCC responded with a shrug:

In a statement to Business Insider, the NRCC said they do not have control over what “our individual expenditure unit does.”

A spokeswoman then cited an ad attacking Democratic congressional candidate Randy Perkins, who is running for Rep. Patrick Murphy’s seat in Florida. That ad, which was funded by the NRCC’s independent expenditure arm, contained information from hacked documents about Perkins, who was allegedly under fire from fellow Democrats…

The statement added: “The shady business practices deployed by Randy Perkins highlighted in the digital ad have been well documented through various news outlets and even in Mr. Perkins’ own testimony before Congress. It’s not our fault the DCCC recruited a candidate so flawed that they knew he was a liability from the very beginning.”

You can see what Pelosi’s trying to do here, though. With Democrats having already been hacked and facing the prospect of new leaks, possibly in the form of a damaging October surprise, she’s scrambling to try to shape public opinion so that any partisan attacks based on those leaks will be seen as unpatriotic by the party engaging in them. It’s not just dirty pool, she claims, it’s playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands. That reasoning won’t fully contain the damage if Wikileaks drops something on Hillary but it might back Republicans off a little and it’ll give Democrats a handy way to deflect and change the subject, especially if the leaks end up stoking divisions on the left. If something comes out about, say, Team Clinton wanting to play a dirty trick on Bernie Sanders during the primaries, Hillary will have a big problem in outraged Sanders voters weighing whether to stay home on Election Day in protest. Pushing the idea now that anyone who promotes leaks is participating in a Russian operation to elect Trump president is Pelosi’s way of influencing the “us and them” calculus by those people. The “us” isn’t Bernie and the “them” Hillary, see, the “us” is Democrats and Americans and the “them” is Putin the fascist and his pal Trump.

One point worth noting here, though: Ryan and the NRCC should consider the possibility of reprisals if they do go all-in on attacking Democrats with hacked material. I don’t mean reprisals from Russia, either. I’m talking about potential reprisals from American hackers who might lean left and take umbrage at the spectacle of the GOP punishing Dems with material that was supposed to have been private. If that’s fair game in an election, they might decide to create some hacked material for Democrats from private Republican servers in the next election. And then of course other hackers would retaliate in the future on behalf of the GOP, and off we go. Perhaps that’s inevitable, with political cyberwar just the next stage in oppo research, in which case the NRCC might as well use whatever Wikileaks produces this year. It’s going to make a dirty business much dirtier, though. Makes me wonder if John Daniel Davidson is right that the ultimate goal of Russia’s cyber campaign within the U.S. probably isn’t to elect Trump but rather to undermine public faith in American elections. Starting a trend in which Democrats and Republicans end up hacking each other every four years to see who can find the juiciest October surprise would be a smart way of doing that.