Morning Consult: Russia’s Role in Political Hacking: What They’re Saying So Far

By Amir Nasr

Overshadowed by the fast-paced news dumps of the “Trump Tapes,” the second presidential debate and WikiLeaks releases was a massive joint announcement Friday from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that the U.S. intelligence community is “confident” the Russian government orchestrated hacks on the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

DHS and the office of the DNI said that the hacks and subsequent disclosure of the emails were “intended to interfere with the US election process.”

“The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts,” the joint statement said. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

While various news outlets reported U.S. intelligence were confident of Kremlin involvement in the hacking of the Democratic Party organizations, this marked the first time the government publicly blamed Russia for meddling in the U.S. election.

Members of Congress from both parties wanted to see a stop to the interference now that the acknowledgment was public.

Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on the government to put a stop to Russia’s activities. “If it does not, we must develop a strong response,” she said.

Feinstein said: ““The statement released by the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence closely mirrors my joint statement with Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. The administration’s acknowledgement that Russian intelligence agencies are attempting to influence the U.S. election and undermine public confidence conveys the seriousness of the threat. Attempted hacking of our election system is intolerable, and it’s critical to convince the Russian government to cease these activities. If it does not, we must develop a strong response.”

Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he plans to introduce legislation that would require the White House to investigate the Russian cyber-criminals and “aggressively pursue sanctions when appropriate,” according to a Friday release.

The “news is further evidence of what happens when the Obama Administration fails to take the cyber threat seriously. That is why I plan to introduce legislation that builds upon my North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act by mandating the Administration sanction Russia’s bad actors who are responsible for malicious cyber activities,” Gardner said in a statement. “Russia’s interference with American democracy is a direct threat to our political process, and it may only be the tip of the iceberg. It is imperative that Russia’s behavior is met with strength in the form of aggressive sanctions to show the world that its cybercrimes will not be tolerated.”

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called on the U.S. to work with European allies that Russia had targeted with similar hacking operations to develop a response protecting the country from further intrusions.

“I applaud the Administration’s decision to publicly name Russia as the source of hacks into U.S. political institutions,” Schiff said in a Friday statement. “We should now work with our European allies who have been the victim of similar and even more malicious cyber interference by Russia to develop a concerted response that protects our institutions and deters further meddling. All of us should be gravely concerned when a foreign power like Russia seeks to undermine our democratic institutions, and we must do everything in our power to guard against it. This is why Senator Feinstein and I have been urging state election officials to take every precaution and to avail themselves of the cyber expertise offered by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) said the U.S. will “hold [Russia] President [Vladimir] Putin directly accountable for his misguided attempts to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt,” in a Saturday statement.

“Cyber attacks on the people and processes central to our democracy cannot go unchecked. These actions threaten to undermine the American peoples’ faith in our elections, and I commend President Obama identifying Russia as the perpetrator of such hacks,” Langevin said in the statement. “Russia’s expanding information warfare operations and interference in democracies – here and abroad – are intended to destabilize. But I have faith in the citizens of the United States and our allies and their ability to stand resilient in the face of these deceitful attacks. We will stand united with our NATO partners to turn back these attempts to undermine our freedom.”