Though it’s clear why the Russians would hack the DNC—why not?—it’s unclear what they have to gain from revealing it. “Why would they release that they have the capability unless they are going full Tom Clancy and it’s blackmail,” a former Pentagon official speculated, pointing out that something worse might be in the missing Clinton emails from her time as Secretary of State.
(The RNC and Clinton Foundation have also probably been hacked, unless they have markedly superior cybersecurity practices.) Is the Russian gamble to exploit Trump’s unpredictability as a vehicle to sow greater chaos in the American democratic process?
If Russia did pass along the hack to Wikileaks for publication, the escalation should ignite bi-partisan furor over blatant interference in the U.S. election—just as we should be outraged that Trump is encouraging it. Even without hard evidence of a Trump/Putin alliance, Democrats still have a strong case because Trump has a lobbyist problem.
Anger against entrenched special interests propelled Trump to win the Republican nomination, and it’s a strength Democrats know that Trump holds against Clinton. When it comes to opposing special interests, Trump bests Clinton by a margin of 20 percent. Perhaps most damning is that Democrats themselves give Clinton her lowest marks when it comes to taking on the Washington establishment and lobbyists.
But Trump’s man-crush on Putin could undo this strength, especially in the eyes of his conspiracy-minded supporters.
There’s big money to be made pitching pro-Putin clients, and that’s why the focus should be on what happened last week at the platform committee meeting at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Trump and his campaign have shown no interest in policy throughout the duration of this election. When a campaign is so flagrantly unconcerned with substance, it’s telling when they suddenly care, especially when his campaign is run by Paul Manafort, a lobbyist for numerous pro-Putin clients, including the deposed Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Putin kleptocrat who now is in exile in Russia, and Oleg Deripaska, who American authorities denied a visa because of ties to organized crime. (Former Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole, who hired Manafort to run his 1996 bid, helped secure Deripaska’s visa for a $560,000 fee in 2005.)