It’s clearer than ever: the theft and leaking of Democratic emails were key to Clinton’s election defeat
In the process of announcing the US Justice Department’s July 2018 indictment of a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for hacking Democrats’ computers and publishing the contents, US deputy attorney general Rod J Rosenstein noted that: “What impact they may have had [on the 2016 presidential election] … is a matter of speculation.” I disagree. While the case will never be iron-clad, one can plausibly determine how these Kremlin-tied saboteurs changed the contest that put real estate developer Donald J Trump in the White House.
Doing so entails two steps. The first requires documenting the ways in which the Russian cyber-theft of more than 150,000 emails and documents affected key players, bolstered or undercut the electoral strategies of the major party contenders, legitimized central Republican attacks, and altered the media and debate agendas. The second involves asking how these changes in the balance of messaging and the media agenda compare to those whose effects have been documented in past campaigns.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the Elizabeth Ware Packard professor in the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania, director of its Annenberg Policy Center, and author of Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped elect a President (Oxford University Press, 2018) from which this analysis is drawn.