Did Vladimir Putin order the Russian government to hack the Democratic National Committee, obtaining emails that Wikileaks has since released, to take down Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential elections?
That's the theory that emerged rapidly inside American intelligence and law enforcement agencies since the 20,000 leaked internal DNC emails spread throughout the internet, just before the beginning of the party's convention in Philadelphia.
Some of those emails revealed DNC staff's efforts to sabotage Bernie Sanders's campaign against Clinton. One discussed challenging his religious faith, or lack thereof. The revelations were seen as deeply embarrassing and damaging to the Dems, and on Sunday, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she would step down–but only after the convention has concluded.
From the Daily Beast:
The FBI suspects that Russian government hackers breached the networks of the Democratic National Committee and stole emails that were posted to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks on Friday. It's an operation that several U.S. officials now suspect was a deliberate attempt to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, according to five individuals familiar with the investigation of the breach.
The theory that Moscow orchestrated the leaks to help Trump, who has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and practically called for the end of NATO, is fast gaining currency within the Obama administration because of the timing of the leaks and Trump's own connections to the Russian government, the sources said on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and developing quickly.
Current and former U.S. officials drew analogies to so-called "active measures campaigns," or state-sponsored operations designed for political effects.
"The release of emails just as the Democratic National Convention is getting underway this week has the hallmarks of a Russian active measures campaign," David Shedd, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told The Daily Beast. Shedd said that additional leaks were likely, echoing an opinion expressed by U.S. officials and experts who said that the release of emails on Friday may just be an opening salvo.
The Beast did some solid reporting on this very interesting story. Two U.S. officials told their reporters that while yes, hacking is a crime which falls to the FBI, "trying to manipulate an election is not" a crime. This limits what FBI can investigate, the officials said.
"Manipulation is not a crime. Some would argue that Voice of America or Fox News try to manipulate elections," one retired FBI agent told The Daily Beast.