In a big speech two weeks ago about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton highlighted her Republican rival's affection for Vladimir Putin and Russia's autocracy. "It's clear he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about," Clinton said
, adding, "If Donald gets his way, they'll be celebrating in the Kremlin."
The question, of course, is just how much interest the Kremlin has in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. We're starting to get a pretty good idea
The Democratic National Committee's computer network was breached by a Russian government cyber operation that has had access to the group's communications and databases since at least last summer, NBC News confirms. The sophisticated Russian group, which has previously targeted the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, specifically concentrated on the DNC's research units and had access to all of the committee's internal communications, including chat and email applications. The DNC's opposition research unit, which sources indicate was specifically targeted by the hackers, is tasked with compiling unflattering information on Republican opponents -- particularly presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump -- to potentially use against them in the course of a political campaign.
Just when it seemed 2016 couldn't possibly get any stranger, Russian government hackers helped kick things up a notch.
The Washington Post
, which was the first to report this story, also noted
that the hackers specifically gained access to "the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump." The article added:
The intrusions are an example of Russia's interest in the U.S. political system and its desire to understand the policies, strengths and weaknesses of a potential future president -- much as American spies gather similar information on foreign candidates and leaders. [...] [U]nlike Clinton, whom the Russians probably have long had in their spy sights, Trump has not been a politician for very long, so foreign agencies are playing catch-up, analysts say.
At this point, there's been no indication of what, if anything, Russian officials intend to do with the opposition research file on Trump. That said, one need not be an overly creative conspiracy theorist to note that the Republican candidate has expressed support for Putin
-- the feeling appears to be mutual
-- and Trump's campaign chairman is Paul Manafort, a Putin ally
There were some jokes making the rounds this morning about what Russia would charge Trump for access to the oppo file, but given the circumstances, isn't it far more likely Russia would give it to Trump gift-wrapped and for free?