2016 Democratic National Committee email leak
2016 U.S. presidential election
The 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak is a collection of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails leaked to and subsequently published by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016. This collection included 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the DNC, the governing body of the United States' Democratic Party. The leak includes emails from seven key DNC staff members, and date from January 2015 to May 2016. The leak prompted the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz before the Democratic National Convention. After the convention, DNC CEO Amy Dacey, CFO Brad Marshall, and Communications Director Luis Miranda also resigned in the wake of the controversy.
WikiLeaks did not reveal its source; a self-styled hacker going by the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the attack. On July 25, 2016, the FBI announced that it would investigate the hack. The same day, the DNC issued a formal apology to Bernie Sanders and his supporters, stating, "On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email," and that the emails did not reflect the DNC's "steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process." On November 6, 2016, WikiLeaks released a second batch of DNC emails, adding 8,263 emails to its collection.
On December 9, 2016, the CIA told U.S. legislators that the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded Russia conducted operations during the 2016 U.S. election to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Multiple U.S intelligence agencies concluded people with direct ties to the Kremlin gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee.
The leak revealed information about the DNC's interactions with the media, Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sanders' campaigns, and financial contributions. It also includes personal information about the donors of the Democratic Party, including credit card and Social Security numbers, which could facilitate identity theft.
Bernie Sanders' campaign
In the emails, DNC staffers derided the Sanders campaign. The Washington Post reported: "Many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign. Basically, all of these examples came late in the primary—after Hillary Clinton was clearly headed for victory—but they believe the national party committee's stated neutrality in the race even at that late stage."
In a May 2016 email chain, the DNC chief financial officer (CFO) Brad Marshall told the DNC chief executive officer, Amy Dacy, that they should have someone from the media ask Sanders if he is an atheist prior to the West Virginia primary. In another email, Wasserman Schultz said of Bernie Sanders, "He isn't going to be president."
On May 21, 2016, DNC National Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach sent an email to DNC Spokesman Luis Miranda mentioning a controversy that ensued in December 2015 when the National Data Director of the Sanders campaign and three subordinate staffers accessed the Clinton campaign's voter information on the NGP VAN database. (The party accused Sanders' campaign of impropriety and briefly limited their access to the database. The Sanders campaign filed suit for breach of contract against the DNC; they dropped the suit on April 29, 2016.) Paustenbach suggested that the incident could be used to promote a "narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never had his act together, that his campaign was a mess." (The suggestion was rejected by the DNC.)  The Washington Post wrote: "Paustenbach's suggestion, in that way, could be read as a defense of the committee rather than pushing negative information about Sanders. But this is still the committee pushing negative information about one of its candidates."
Debbie Wasserman Schultz's emails
In the aftermath of the Nevada Democratic convention, Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote about Jeff Weaver, manager of Bernie Sanders' campaign: "Damn liar. Particularly scummy that he barely acknowledges the violent and threatening behavior that occurred".
In May 2016, MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski called on Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down over the DNC's bias against the Bernie Sanders campaign. Schultz was upset at the negative coverage of her actions in the media, and she emailed Chuck Todd that such coverage of her "must stop". Describing the coverage as the "LAST straw", she ordered the DNC's communications director to call MSNBC president Phil Griffin to demand an apology from Brzezinski.
Financial and donor information
The New York Times wrote that the cache included "thousands of emails exchanged by Democratic officials and party fund-raisers, revealing in rarely seen detail the elaborate, ingratiating and often bluntly transactional exchanges necessary to harvest hundreds of millions of dollars from the party’s wealthy donor class. The emails capture a world where seating charts are arranged with dollar totals in mind, where a White House celebration of gay pride is a thinly disguised occasion for rewarding wealthy donors and where physical proximity to the president is the most precious of currencies." As is common in national politics, large party donors "were the subject of entire dossiers, as fund-raisers tried to gauge their interests, annoyances and passions."
In a series of email exchanges in April and May 2016, DNC fundraising staff discussed and compiled a list of people (mainly donors) who might be appointed to federal boards and commissions. Center for Responsive Politics senior fellow Bob Biersack noted that this is a longstanding practice in the United States: "Big donors have always risen to the top of lists for appointment to plum ambassadorships and other boards and commissions around the federal landscape." The White House denied that financial support for the party was connected to board appointments, saying: "Being a donor does not get you a role in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one. We’ve said this for many years now and there's nothing in the emails that have been released that contradicts that."
A self-styled hacker going by the moniker "Guccifer 2.0" claimed to be the source of the leaks; WikiLeaks did not reveal its source. Cybersecurity experts and firms, including CrowdStrike, Fidelis Cybersecurity, Mandiant, SecureWorks, and ThreatConnect, and the editor for Ars Technica, stated the leak was part of a series of cyberattacks on the DNC committed by two Russian intelligence groups. U.S. intelligence agencies also stated (with "high confidence") that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the DNC, according to reports in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange initially stuck to WikiLeaks policy of neither confirming or denying sources but in January 2017 said that their "source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party", and the Russian government said it had no involvement.
United States intelligence conclusions
On October 7, 2016, the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated that the US intelligence community was confident that the Russian government directed the breaches and the release of the obtained or allegedly obtained material in an attempt to "… interfere with the US election process."
The U.S. Intelligence Community tasked resources debating why Putin chose summer 2016 to escalate active measures influencing U.S. politics. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said after the 2011–13 Russian protests, Putin's confidence in his viability as a politician was damaged, and Putin responded with the propaganda operation. Former CIA officer Patrick Skinner explained the goal was to spread uncertainty. U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, commented on Putin's aims, and said U.S. intelligence agencies were concerned with Russian propaganda. Speaking about disinformation that appeared in Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland, Schiff said there was an increase of the same behavior in the U.S. Schiff concluded Russian propaganda operations would continue against the U.S. after the election.
On December 9, 2016, the CIA told U.S. legislators the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded Russia conducted operations during the 2016 U.S. election to assist Donald Trump in winning the presidency. Multiple U.S intelligence agencies concluded people with direct ties to the Kremlin gave WikiLeaks hacked emails from the DNC and additional sources such as John Podesta, campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton. These intelligence organizations additionally concluded Russia attempted to hack the Republican National Committee (RNC) as well as the DNC but were prevented by security defenses on the RNC network.
The CIA said the foreign intelligence agents were Russian operatives previously known to the U.S. CIA officials told U.S. Senators it was "quite clear" Russia's intentions were to help Trump. Trump released a statement December 9, and disregarded the CIA conclusions.
On July 18, 2016, Russian press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated that the Russian government had no involvement in the DNC hacking incident. Peskov called it "paranoid" and "absurd", saying: "We are again seeing these maniacal attempts to exploit the Russian theme in the US election campaign." That position was later reiterated by the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, which called the allegation "entirely unrealistic".
On July 24, 2016, Sanders urged Wasserman Schultz to resign following the leak and stated that he was "disappointed" by the leak, but that he was "not shocked." Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, called for greater accountability in the DNC, calling Wasserman Schultz "a figure of disunity" within the Democratic Party. Later the same day, Wasserman Schultz resigned from her position as DNC Chairman, effective as of the end of the nominating convention. After Wasserman Schultz resigned, Sanders said that she had "made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party." On the following day, the DNC apologized to Bernie Sanders, his supporters, and the Democratic Party for "inexcusable remarks made over email."  On July 24, 2016, in an interview with NPR, former DNC Chair and current Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe said "... that the chair's job should be "to remain neutral." "I sat in that chair in 2004 trying to navigate all the different candidates we had. But if you had people in there who were trashing one of the candidates, I can tell you this, if I were still chairman they wouldn't be working there. I mean, that is just totally unacceptable behavior."
On July 25, 2016, Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter for the BBC, commented that "the revelation that those in the heart of the Democratic establishment sought to undermine the anti-establishment Sanders is roughly on a par with [Casablanca character] police Capt Renault's professed shock that gambling was taking place in the Casablanca club he was raiding, as a waiter hands him his winnings."
On July 25, 2016, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said that "Today's events show really what an uphill climb the Democrats are facing this week in unifying their party. Starting out the week by losing your party chairman over longstanding bitterness between factions is no way to keep something together." 
On October 14, 2016, NBC News reported that multiple sources were telling them that Barack Obama had ordered the CIA to present him with options for a retaliatory cyber attack against the Russian Federation for allegedly interfering in the US presidential election. Sources said that this is not the first time the CIA has presented such options to a president, but that on all previous occasions the decision was made not to carry out the proposed attacks.
Media coverage and public perception
The New York Times reported that Julian Assange stated in an interview on British ITV on June 12, 2016, that he hoped that the publication of the emails would "...harm Hillary Clinton's chances to win the presidency…" and that he had timed the release to coincide with the 2016 Democratic National Convention. In an interview with CNN, Assange would neither confirm nor deny who WikiLeaks' sources were; he claimed that his website "...might release "a lot more material" relevant to the US electoral campaign..." 
Following the publication of the stolen emails, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden criticized WikiLeaks for its wholesale leakage of data, writing that "their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake." The Washington Post contrasted the difference between WikiLeaks' practices and Snowden's disclosure of information about NSA: while Snowden worked with journalists to vet documents (withholding some where it would endanger national security), WikiLeaks' "more radical" approach involves the dumping of "massive, searchable caches online with few—if any—apparent efforts to remove sensitive personal information."
On July 25, 2016, Anne Applebaum, columnist for the Washington Post, writes that "…with the exception of a few people on Twitter and a handful of print journalists, most of those covering this story, especially on television, are not interested in the nature of the hackers, and they are not asking why the Russians apparently chose to pass the emails on to WikiLeaks at this particular moment, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. They are focusing instead on the content of what were meant to be private emails..." She goes on to describe in detail other Russian destabilization campaigns in Eastern European countries.
On July 25, 2016, Thomas Rid, Professor in Security Studies at King’s College, London, and non-resident fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, DC, summed up the evidence pointing to Russia being behind the hacking of the DNC files and the "Guccifer-branded leaking operation". He concludes that these actions successfully blunted the "DNC's ability to use its opposition research in surprise against Trump...".  He further writes that data exfiltration from political organizations is done by many countries and is considered to be a legitimate form of intelligence work. "But digitally exfiltrating and then publishing possibly manipulated documents disguised as freewheeling hacktivism is crossing a big red line and setting a dangerous precedent: an authoritarian country directly yet covertly trying to sabotage an American election."
Russian security expert and investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov said "It is almost impossible to know for sure whether or not Russia is behind a hack of the DNC's servers". According to him, one of the reasons Russia would try to sway the US presidential election is that the Russian government considers Clinton "a hater of Russia": "There is this mentality in Russia of being besieged; that it is always under attack from the United States. ...They are trying to interfere in our internal affairs so why not try to do the same thing to them?"
- Russian involvement in the 2016 United States presidential election
- Democratic National Committee chairmanship election, 2017
- Democratic National Committee cyber attacks
- Guccifer 2.0
- Podesta emails
- Office of Personnel Management data breach
- Operation Aurora
- Yahoo! data breaches
- Hacker (computer security)
- Fancy Bear
- Fake news website
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