Earlier today the Grand Jury for the District of Columbia charged twelve Russian intelligence officers with conspiring “to gain unauthorized access (to ‘hack’) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” The operation was sustained and sophisticated, and it targeted “over 300 individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC,” according to the indictment.
Furthermore, the operation was consequential. When, in February, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office released its indictment of Russians involved in the effort to impact American debate through social, there was some justified chuckling at the small scale and amateurishness of that effort. The messages were silly, and the spending was a drop in the ocean compared to the massive, sustained, and coordinated social-media spending of American political parties and their allies.
The hacking scandal was different. The hacking scandal mattered.
There’s no way to know if it moved enough votes in key states to swing the election, but the leaks of hacked emails dominated multiple news cycles, embarrassed key Democrats, and sowed a degree of discord within the Democratic party. Republicans, including Donald Trump, exulted in the revelations and sometimes explicitly called for more. “Russia, if you’re listening,” Trump said publicly on July 27, 2016, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”