The Trump-Russia collusion narrative has dominated mainstream press in the US and across the rest of the world, for obvious reasons. Is there anything more compelling (or horrifying) than the thought that Russia successfully used a number of cyber warfare strategies such as hacking email accounts and coordinated bots on social media to manipulate the American electorate and political system in order to destabilise the country and reduce their influence on the global stage?
The general narrative of the right wing of US politics has been to flatly deny that this story is true. Everyone, from Trump to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has denied any allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Many have attempted to deflect the criticism and spotlight towards either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton over the Uranium One deal and links between Putin and the Clinton Foundation.
Much of the Russian hacking narrative has been built up based on claims that Russia was behind the leak of DNC emails, claims that have yet to be substantiated by publicly available evidence. In fact, there are independent analysts who have suggested, based on publicly available data, that it would have been impossible for the file transfer to take place remotely and that the leak would have had to have come from within the DNC itself.
This is not to discount the massive amount of mounting evidence that there were numerous meetings and attempted communication between members of the Trump campaign and individuals associated with the Russian government and Putin’s inner circle. One of the strangest parts of the two conflicting narratives that have sprung up – that either Clinton or Trump are corrupt and colluded with the Russians – is the under-current that these are mutually exclusive, there is no way that both camps could be corrupt, it must be one or the other.
The Russian Connection
We now know that Russia had contact with at least nine different people in Trump-world during the election campaign and transition period. These include former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and disgraced former campaign adviser, Michael Flynn, with Manafort, his business partner, Gates, and George Papadopoulos under indictment or cooperating with Mueller investigation.
The White House defence has consistently been that there is no evidence that has been produced that links Trump directly with Russia, that there is no smoking gun, but there is a significant amount of smoke. Ezra Klein, editor-at-large at Vox.com, explained the reason that the most recent developments in the case all but eliminate the possibility that there were absolutely no links between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives (video above).
We also know that there are complex financial ties going back decades, documented brilliantly in this Linkedin piece, and that there are at least ten separate Russians that have had contact with members of the Trump inner circle and campaign officials.
Doubts of Russian Links To DNC Leak
Reporting by Disobedient Media discussed meta-analysis of the alleged Russian “hacking” of the DNC. It claimed that the files published by the Guccifer 2.0 persona were probably initially downloaded by someone with physical access to a computer connected to the internal DNC network. The analysis provided by “The Forensicator” suggests that instead of a remote hacker (as has been widely reported), the leak came internally, potentially copied onto some form of USB drive. According to Disobedient Media,
“The Forensicator concluded that the chance that the files had been accessed and downloaded remotely over the internet were too small to give this idea any serious consideration. He explained that the calculated transfer speeds for the initial copy were much faster than can be supported by an internet connection.”
Crowdstrike was hired by the DNC and have been the sole source of data that the “Russian hacking” of the DNC narrative is based upon. It has since been found that Crowdstrike has previously misrepresented data in an attempt to frame the Russian government for cyber attacks and also failed to account for known capabilities of third parties which enable them to impersonate Russian hackers.
Check out our interview with Elizabeth Vos of Disobedient Media below.
To this day, the FBI has had no access to DNC servers – all the information we have about the claims of Russian hacking come from the DNC and Crowdstrike. The DNC was reportedly wary of losing control of their operation in the middle of the campaign and thus decided to hire Crowdstrike rather than involve the FBI, who were investigating Clinton’s emails at the time.
A memo published by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) corroborated these claims, postulating that the DNC emails were leaked from the inside, with little or no help or encouragement from Russia.
However, these claims have been somewhat disputed, with an article published by TheNation.com claiming that whilst the work of The Forensicator was free of any significant errors, there was still room in the data for the data to have been accessed by a remote hacker. For example, if the files were downloaded to a temporary cloud server the download speeds deemed impossible for a remote hacker could be possible.
However, it is troubling that the entire Russian hack narrative has been built upon evidence that has not been seen or verified, and that this narrative has been pushed so wholeheartedly by the mainstream media. That isn’t to say that there aren’t Russian connections that are more verifiable across other aspects of the election (such as emails from the Trump campaign), but the idea that the Russian’s hacked the DNC has no concrete evidence as of yet. Despite this, the official DNC response reads as follows,
“U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government hacked the DNC in an attempt to interfere in the election. Any suggestion otherwise is false and is just another conspiracy theory like those pushed by Trump and his administration. It’s unfortunate that The Nation has decided to join the conspiracy theorists to push this narrative.”
The secrecy surrounding the DNC leak only amplifies questions around the rigging of the primary in favour of Hillary Clinton, discussed by Donna Brazile in her new book. The Clinton campaign’s alleged control of all DNC cash and fundraising is just another shady and potentially corrupt story associated with the Clinton’s and the DNC.
Despite huge unknowns on both sides of the 2016 election campaign with regards to Russian influence, the idea that one of these two politicians must be corrupt has become incredibly partisan, so why want to ask; why can’t it be both? Why must it be simply one or the other?
If you enjoyed what you read here you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up to date with everything we are covering, or sign up to our mailing list here! If you want to hear more from us you can check out our podcast, Chatter, or subscribe to us on iTunes here.