Russian Hacking: Still No Hard Evidence That Putin Interfered In 2016 Election

Rob Cotton

The topic of Russian hacking in the 2016 election has been the cause of much concern and speculation by citizens of the United States, politicians, media pundits, and pretty much anyone else who pays any attention to American politics. Someone who has been completely out of the loop over the whole thing, upon being confronted with the great extent of attention that has been and continues to be given to the subject, would most likely arrive at the conclusion that there must at least be some official piece of evidence suggesting that the claims have some basis in known facts. On the contrary, as Glenn Greenwald explains in The Intercept, the lone declassified report that exists on the question of Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election is based on assertion rather than evidence.

"That Putin ordered Russian hacking of the DNC's and John Podesta's emails in order to help Trump win is now such consecrated orthodoxy that it's barely acceptable in Decent Company to question it," Greenwald writes. "But that obscures, by design, the rather important fact that the U.S. Government, while repeatedly issuing new reports making these claims, has still never offered any actual evidence for them. Even the New Yorker article, which clearly views the theory as valid, acknowledges this fact."

Greenwald is referring to the New Yorker March cover story titled "Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War," in which the magazine lays out in 13,000 words the case for Vladimir Putin's interference in the 2016 election.

"The declassified report provides more assertion than evidence," New Yorker writes. "Intelligence officers say that this was necessary to protect their information-gathering methods."

The New Yorker story goes on to document a long list of assertions and speculations, but still, no hard evidence of Russian hacking exists.

"The 2016 Presidential campaign in the United States was of keen interest to Putin," New Yorker writes. "He loathed Obama, who had applied economic sanctions against Putin's cronies after the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. (Russian state television derided Obama as 'weak,' 'uncivilized,' and a 'eunuch.') Clinton, in Putin's view, was worse—the embodiment of the liberal interventionist strain of U.S. foreign policy, more hawkish than Obama, and an obstacle to ending sanctions and reestablishing Russian geopolitical influence. At the same time, Putin deftly flattered Trump, who was uncommonly positive in his statements about Putin's strength and effectiveness as a leader."

This kind of speculating and innuendo should not be confused with real evidence. As Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept, the reason for Donald Trump's victory, and likewise for Brexit in the United Kingdom, is that neoliberal economic policies have made millions upon millions of people uncertain about their futures. They are unsure about their health, their jobs, their families, and how they will afford to live. Greenwald sees pieces like the New Yorker's, and the overall tendency for the political elite to focus on Russian hacking speculation, as not only out of step with the needs of regular people, but also dangerous in that they could lead to an increase in tensions with Russia, a new cold war, or perhaps even armed conflict.

"Using Russia – yet again – to whitewash our own sins and systemic failures is bad enough," Greenwald writes. "Let's just hope it doesn't lead the two countries back into a protracted and devastating Cold War or, worse still, direct military confrontation. With tensions rising and rhetoric becoming harsher and more manipulative, both of those outcomes are more likely than they've been in many years."

According to The Independent, new DNC Chairman Tom Perez has already used his post to call for a full-scale investigation into Trump's ties with Putin and the alleged Russian hacking. He is joined by most of the Democratic Party establishment and even some top Republicans, such as John McCain and George W. Bush, in speculating about Russian hacking based on little direct evidence.

If evidence for Russian interference in the 2016 election does exist, the American people deserve to see it in the form of something that is more than just speculation and innuendo. The longer the topic of Russian interference in the 2016 election continues as little more than a piece of political football, the longer issues that directly impact the lives of Americans, and people all over the world, will be ignored.

[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]