Coincidence or conspiracy? US govt officially accuses Russia of hacks during Clinton email dump

© Reuters
US intelligence officials claimed Moscow is behind the hacks and leaks related to the 2016 elections as the State Department accused Russia of “war crimes” and released the latest Hillary Clinton emails. Social media users wondered if this was a coincidence.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement on Friday afternoon, saying that US intelligence was “confident that the Russian government directed” the hacks of emails and documents and their posting on WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the blog of the hacker calling himself “Guccifer 2.0.”

Curiously, the announcement came at 3:30 p.m. ET, just as the State Department was releasing more emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The 350 pages of emails were recovered by the FBI as part of their investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, and a federal judge ordered them released after Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by Judicial Watch and VICE News journalist Jason Leopold. The releases were scheduled for October 7, October 21 and November 4.

The FBI announced it was closing the investigation and not recommending any charges against Clinton right after the July 4 holiday weekend, with Director James Comey taking the unprecedented step of laying out his reasoning in a press conference. This has led to charges of favoritism toward Clinton, who is the Democratic Party candidate for president.

Emails and documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee were first released in June by Guccifer 2.0, but the DNC did not react until WikiLeaks released more files – which Guccifer 2.0 said he supplied to them – on the eve of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Within hours, the Clinton campaign was accusing Russia and President Vladimir Putin personally of being behind the leaks, without disputing any of the documents’ authenticity or content.

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While the media have reported the accusation as fact, Friday was the first time any agency of the US government was willing to officially stand behind it – even as relations between Moscow and Washington were reaching boiling point over Syria.

Within a half-hour of the DHS-DNI statement and the State Department’s email release, the Washington Post released a 2005 tape of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s remarks during the taping of a TV show. The paper, which has endorsed Clinton, held up the comments as proof of Trump’s sexism and disrespect for women.

By 4:30 p.m., however, WikiLeaks was releasing the first part of emails belonging to the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Friday afternoon is the traditional time for “taking out the trash” in Washington, with most people headed home for the weekend and the revelations unlikely to stay on top of the news cycle the coming Monday.