It is odd that the very people who insisted, prior to the election, that Hillary Clinton’s email “mistake” was a non-scandal are now claiming hysterically that a Russian hacking effort tipped the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump.
The kind of hacking that the White House, the Democratic Party, and much of the mainstream media are suddenly so deeply concerned about is exactly what Hillary Clinton risked by storing classified information on an illicit private email server.
Let us stipulate, for the purposes of discussion, that the Russians are constantly trying to hack both government and private email — as are the Chinese, whose hacking of the Office of Personnel Management in 2015 caused a major security breach.
There is no evidence — none — that Russian hacking affected the voting process. In fact, the recounts initiated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein only reaffirmed the final result in the upper Midwest states where Trump broke through the “Blue Wall.”
The two hacking episodes in question refer to the the Democratic National Committee (DNC) email server, and the hack of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s email account. (Wikileaks released both sets of emails, denying Russian involvement.)
Whether the Russians were involved or not, it is arguably true that both email hacks did affect on the election, although it is impossible to quantify exactly what that effect was.
The DNC hack resulted in a public relations crisis for the party on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were enraged that the senior party leadership had evidently colluded with the Clinton campaign to ensure that she won the primary election. Other emails — such as an exchange discussing whether and how to make use of Sanders’ Jewish heritage, or his atheism — also hit the party hard. There were a wave of resignations, and disgruntled Sanders supporters staged a walkout at the convention.
The Podesta hack resulted in a series of daily scandals in the final weeks before the election, some of which implicated the campaign and some of which also tarnished the mainstream media. Trump referred repeatedly to Wikileaks in rally speeches on the campaign trail, and some Trump supporters began to regard Julian Assange as a national hero. (Assange’s role, just a few years ago, in leaking sensitive diplomatic communications — perhaps triggering the Arab Spring — was largely forgotten.)
Then, as now, the Clinton campaign blamed the Russians. But their response to the hacking was rather muted, both because the campaign did not want to give additional air time to the damaging revelations from the DNC and Podesta emails, and also because Democrats were doggedly insisting that Clinton’s email scandal was unimportant. It was, we were told, a mere lapse in judgment that had no national security implications whatsoever. The FBI, after all, said there had been no evidence of any successful hacking.
Experts were skeptical about that claim, and more evidence later emerged of foreign hacking attempts. Regardless, Clinton’s email server exposed crucial classified information to potential hacking by foreign intelligence.
The correct response for Democrats was not to declare, as Sen. Sanders did, that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails,” but to regard Hillary Clinton’s actions — and, more importantly, her lies — as disqualifying.
President-elect Trump has suggested that he might not, after all, pursue the various Clinton scandals once he takes office. That has been a disappointment to some supporters. But the Democrats, who ought to be seizing the opportunity to avoid further embarrassment, are doing their best to make the case for continuing the case by talking up Russian hacking conspiracy theories.
The DNC and Podesta hacks did not involve classified information or national security. Clinton’s email scandal did.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.