In his Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump seemed to let Russia off the hook for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. During Monday’s event, he said “I don’t see any reason why it would be” when asked if Russia had interfered in the election. Facing fury at home, he walked back this statement. Then on Wednesday, he walked back the walkback. So where are we? What’s the real story? Did Russia hack the election?
Did Russia hack the election?
So, where do we stand now? Did Russia hack the election? It depends on what you mean by “hacked” and “the election.”
Were Russians able to hack into U.S. voting systems and change vote totals? There’s no evidence of that at this time.
But if you’re actually asking did Russian hackers access U.S. election systems when you ask did Russia hack the election, then the answer is yes. In a May report, the Senate Intelligence Committee said that Russian hackers surveilled the election systems of 20 states, tried to gain access to voting websites in six others, and in “a small number of states” breached election computer defenses. The committee reiterated that there was no evidence that vote totals were changed but said the hackers were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data.”
Did Russians hack the Democratic National Committee, steal and disseminate emails? Yes. Since late 2016, it has been the widespread conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hackers, under the direction of Vladimir Putin, hacked into the DNC, stole emails from the committee and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, and disseminated them via WikiLeaks and a website they created.
Last week, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents for the hacking. In the voluminous indictment, Mueller says there’s evidence they took part in a wide-ranging conspiracy to interfere in the U.S. election.
Mueller’s indictment also revealed that Russian hackers stole the personal information of 500,000 Americans from a state’s board of elections website, but he did not say from which state.
In February, Mueller indicted members of a Russian “troll farm,” accusing them of spreading a propaganda campaign via social media during the election.