Over the weekend, Wikileaks (very irresponsibly) published DNC emails. There has been an enormous amount of outrage about these emails, but apart from one suggesting exploiting Bernie Sanders' religious beliefs—a suggestion which was never used, and for which the staffer, who will presumably face additional consequences, has apologized—it's mostly a storm in a teacup.
I strongly, and amusedly, agree with Judd Legum, who said: "If you are shocked by the Wikileaks DNC emails, you probably have never worked in politics."
Which is why it's too bad that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been forced out over this stuff. I've had many criticisms of her over her tenure, but I'm nonetheless unthrilled that this is why and how she's leaving.
The DNC had serious concerns about how the Sanders campaign was potentially damaging Hillary Clinton, who was always leading and always seen as most likely to be the party's nominee. And as well they should have: By repeatedly going after Clinton's character, rather than running on the issues, they damaged Clinton and entrenched a deeply mendacious narrative about her character, which Donald Trump is now continually using against her, often invoking Sanders by name.
Which was entirely predictable. That's why political writers (like yours truly) were continually criticizing Sanders for his scorched-earth approach.
The Democratic National Committee exists to elect Democrats. Of course they were concerned and angry about their most likely presidential nominee, and their candidate who had the best chance of winning in the general election, continuing to be attacked in a way that was unfair.
Which Sanders knew. Why do you think he's supporting her now? Because he knew that was all bullshit! He was just trying to win. And he was trying to win in a way the DNC didn't like, for good reason.
Anyway. While everyone who still doesn't understand how politics works focuses on this non-issue, the real story is that this breach was orchestrated "by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. And metadata from the released emails suggests that the documents passed through Russian computers." And now, releasing them on the eve of the Democratic convention, they are trying to fuck with the US election.
To Trump's favor.
And why the Russian government would try to fuck with the US election to Trump's favor is what we all need to be talking about, because it is genuinely alarming.
As [Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook] notes, this comes just one week after Donald's alarming comments about NATO and his advisers having successfully weakened the Republican Party's platform with respect to Ukraine, reneging on a promise to provide aid to the Ukrainians in their struggle against Russian aggression.In April, Franklin Foer wrote an extensive profile of Manafort, in which Foer details Manafor's decades-long relationship with Trump, which has spanned the former's career of advising some of the most despicable tyrants around the globe. In the piece, he recalls the time that Manafort "snookered" John McCain into aiding him in "undermining American policy."
There have long been questions about some of Donald's advisers' ties to foreign governments. In particular, his campaign co-chair Paul Manafort has built a career specializing in working for arms dealers, dictators, and foreign oligarchs. He was "for many years on the payroll of the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych."
Manafort's business partner, lobbyist Rick Davis, was one of McCain's top advisers. Manafort's and Davis' work in Ukraine was so concerning that, in 2008, a staffer on the National Security Council called McCain to ask him to help "dial back" Manafort and Davis, because: "By promoting enemies of the Orange Revolution, they were undermining American policy." But McCain had already been taken in by them.
That year, the pair had consulted on behalf of pro-independence forces in the tiny principality of Montenegro, which wanted to exit Serbia and become its own sovereign republic. On the surface, this sounded noble enough, so noble that McCain called Montenegro's independence the "greatest European democracy project since the end of the Cold War."Got that? Manafort and Davis (who was running McCain's campaign) manipulated the Republican nominee to lend his support, under the auspices of "yay freedom," to a geopolitical event designed to enrich Putin and his allies.
A report in the Nation, however, showed that the Montenegrin campaign wasn't remotely what McCain described. The independence initiative was championed by a fantastically wealthy Russian mogul called Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska had parochial reasons for promoting independence. He had just purchased Montenegro's aluminum industry and intended to buy broader swaths of its economy. But he was also doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin, on whose good graces the fate of all Russian business ultimately hangs. The Nation quoted Deripaska boasting that "the Kremlin wanted an area of influence in the Mediterranean."
And that was hardly the end of it.
Manafort and Davis didn't just snooker McCain into trumpeting their client's cause; they endangered him politically, by arranging a series of meetings with Deripaska, who the U.S. had barred from entering the country because of his ties to organized crime. In 2006, they steered McCain to attend a dinner with the oligarch at a chalet near Davos, where Deripaska speechified for the 40 or so guests. (The Washington Post reported that the oligarch sent Davis and Manafort a thank-you note for arranging to see the senator in "such an intimate setting.") Seven months later, Manafort and Davis took McCain to celebrate his 70th birthday with Deripaska on a yacht moored in the Adriatic.And now, two presidential cycles later, Manafort is running Donald Trump's campaign. Needless to say, Trump is even less politically sophisticated than McCain. If McCain could be that easily exploited, it's petrifying to contemplate how effortlessly Manafort is able to manipulate Trump.
Further, McCain was not deeply indebted to Russian money-lenders with ties to Putin. As TPM's Josh Marshall details, "Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. …There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men."
That, of course, is the result of Trump's multiple spectacular business failures and bankruptcies. Despite his relentless boasting about his own extraordinary business acumen, which is essentially his singularly cited (alleged) qualification for the presidency, he is, in fact, not regarded as a wise, skilled, and competent businessman by US banks, who refuse to lend to him. So now he must depend on foreign cash to fund his business ventures.
We don't know how indebted Trump is to Russian lenders. We don't know if his borrowing has now critically compromised the Republican nominee for the United States presidency.
This is not idle speculation. This is a genuine concern based on the facts we know.
And if indeed Donald Trump is beholden, in any way, to Putin and his allies, it should alarm the everloving fuck out of all of us that Russian government hackers now appear to meddling with the US election in order to install Trump.
We are so well beyond what the DNC said in its emails. And, seriously, if you're concerned about the DNC rigging a primary (which wasn't rigged), then you oughta be really concerned about a foreign state trying to rig the entire US presidential election.
If what comes out of this story is somehow, once again, that Hillary Clinton is History's Greatest Monster, then we are well and truly fucked.
Because right now, the only person standing between a man who is possibly (and likely) compromised by a foreign government, and whose aides have already changed the Republican platform in a way that benefits that government, is Hillary Clinton. And hers is the only campaign raising that alarm.
If you look at that and think it's her campaign doing the distracting, I despair for our collective future. I really do.
UPDATE: I have more on this at BNR: "BE WARNED: Sophisticated Agitators Are Actively Working to Sabotage Hillary."