After FBI Director Jim Comey warned a congressional panel on Wednesday that hackers are “poking around” voter-registration systems in various states, law-enforcement officials told CNN that the U.S. suspects Russian involvement. ABC News reported that nearly half of U.S. states have come under cyberattack from hackers affiliated with Russia, which helps explain Comey’s comment during Wednesday’s hearing that the FBI is looking into “just what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our election.”
Time and time again, officials and lawmakers have shown a willingness to point fingers at Russia for election-related mischief, either publicly or under cover of anonymity. CIA Director John Brennan said Russia has advanced cyberwar capabilities, and that the country has been “very active” in trying to manipulate elections overseas, at a Wednesday event during the Washington Ideas Forum, presented by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute.
And when hackers broke into the Democratic National Committee’s email systems this summer, President Obama himself said that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.”
So why did Donald Trump stand on a debate stage this week and equivocate on the DNC hack? Here’s what he had to say when Lester Holt, the moderator, asked both candidates who should be blamed for cyberattacks on the U.S.:
I don’t think anybody knows that it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia. I don't—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds, okay?
He was responding to Hillary Clinton’s straightforward analysis of the situation: “Putin is playing a very tough, long game here,” she said. “And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, hack personal files.”