Thursday, February 16, 2017

Questions continue to swirl about Russia's influence in the 2016 election

Riley Brennan
Features and A&E editor

 Recent allegations that Russia swayed the 2016 presidential election have erupted around the country, causing a national upset and the finger-pointing. President-elect Donald Trump’s response to such allegations is to point fingers at China, and the possibility that the culprit could have been “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
        The first incidence of hacking within the election occurred on Jun. 14, when Russian government hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee and gained access to their database of opposition research on the GOP. Wikileaks released the first series of emails obtained through the hacking on Jul. 22. The emails reportedly came from the accounts of several key figures within the DNC, and lead to the resignation of some of them, such as Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC. A few days following the publication of the leaked emails, the FBI announced that they would be investigating the hacking. Another round of emails were leaked at the beginning of October, followed by an additional batch a month later. By Dec. 9 the CIA was confident that Russia had hacked the DNC with the intentions of helping Trump win the election. Trump has repeatedly rejected this conclusion, despite the support of the CIA’s findings from various Republican figures.
 President Obama ordered the intelligence community to review potential foreign interference, going back as far as the 2008 election. Obama received the briefing on these findings on the 5 of January, with Trump receiving them the following day. Intelligence chiefs then proceeded to go to Capitol Hill and give the basics of their report to the public. There, they announced that the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, directly ordered the hackings, with the intent to sway the United States’ 2016 presidential election.
Trump has previously denied the accusations made towards Russia, which has caused some people to believe that he is being blackmailed. This suspicion was further supported when a retired British intelligence operative gathered together memos that suggest Putin has looked to establish influence over Trump for years, and also feature Trump in compromising situations. US officials have deemed the British intelligence officer to be a reliable source.     
In more recent news, members of Trump’s campaign and administration are said to have had contact with Russian Intelligence officials leading up to the election. Trump’s national security advisor, Michael T. Flynn, has resigned due to controversy over his communication with a Russian ambassador, although the knowledge of such communications surfaced over a month before his resignation. 

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