Countries spy on each other, as they should. It’s important to understand the politics of allies and adversaries, and the intentions of leading political figures. So while I don’t like the fact that, according to reports of the assessment of the US intelligence community, the Russian government is behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee, I understand it. I hope we take similar steps to get an inside view of Russian political leaders. Jack Goldsmith made just that point today:
8/ The difference w the Russian DNC op, if true, is that Kremlin published the stolen data. Otherwise it’s ordinary state espionage.
— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) July 26, 2016
What makes this story really troubling is that the emails were released to the public by Wikileaks. I am no fan of Wikileaks or Julian Assange. But if the story of the Russian government’s involvement in the hack is true, then it seems that Wikileaks—not to put too fine a point on it—has actively colluded with a repressive and authoritarian government to influence American politics in favor of a candidate who is completely unsophisticated in diplomacy and foreign relations and whose election would serve Russian interests, at least if his recent remarks on the United States’s NATO treaty obligations are to be believed.
If the story is true, it is worse than Watergate in some senses, because it involves foreign interference in our politics rather than domestic crimes that can be dealt with by the legal system. If the allegations are proven, they rightly will affect Russo-American relations in a negative way. They also make clearer what we already knew: Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and their starry-eyed enthusiasts, are poseurs, not journalists, led by a charismatic, irresponsible charlatan, who think of themselves as heroic truth-tellers but are in fact naive pawns of, in this case, a government that is up to no good.
I should add that I don’t think the emails are particularly damning. As I wrote elsewhere yesterday:
From my experience in civil litigation, I can tell you that every business, from the smallest to the biggest, from the least sophisticated to the most sophisticated, has a lot of embarrassing crap in its email servers, mostly because we treat email the way we used to treat oral office scuttlebut. This story was an interesting “gotcha,” but in my view it has been way overblown and in a more rational world would not have led to [Rep. Debbie] Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.
Update: Statements like this from Mr. Trump are as good a case as I’ve ever seen for the proposition that Mr. Trump is actively dangerous to the national interest:
If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2016