Can Russian President Vladimir Putin help Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton become US president?

July 26, 2016 10:00 am

An embarrassing email leak aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton’s
campaign is being blamed on the Russians, throwing up the scary idea
that may actually be trying to help Donald Trump become
president.
The release of 20,000 hacked emails, which showed the
Democratic National Committee favoured Clinton during the primary
contest with Bernie Sanders, has led to ugly scenes at the Democratic
convention and resignation of the party chair.
In what should be a
triumphant occasion for Clinton that confirms her as the Democratic
nominee for the presidential race, her name has instead been greeted
with loud boos and chants of “Bernie” from Sanders supporters at the
convention.
The dissent is a gift for her Republican rival Donald
Trump, who was officially endorsed as the presidential candidate by his
party last week.

But the hack could damage Trump too, after Clinton’s campaign officials blamed it on Russian spies.
A
cybersecurity firm the Democrats hired after they realised they had
been hacked, found traces of at least two sophisticated hacking groups
called “COZY BEAR” and “FANCY BEAR” on their network – both had ties to
the Russian government.

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin behind a damaging email leak? Photo / AP
Those hackers took at least a year’s worth of detailed
chats, emails and research on Trump, a person knowledgeable of the
breach told AP.
Metadata associated with the file suggests that the
documents passed through Russian computers. They were last saved by
someone named (in Cyrillic letters) “Felix Edmundovich,” a possible
reference to “Iron Felix”, a historical figure who was best known for
establishing the Soviet secret police.
The release of the emails
on Wikileaks just before the Democratic convention was designed to
inflict maximum possible damage, but it also came just a week after
Trump made troubling comments about support of NATO.
Trump
told the New York Times he would decide whether to protect America’s
NATO allies against Russian aggression based on whether those countries
“have fulfilled their obligations to us”. It follows earlier comments
from Trump that praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong
leader, while criticising the 28-member NATO alliance as “obsolete and
expensive”, sparking fears from Eastern European countries like
Lithuania that Trump will “kowtow” to Putin.
On Sunday, Clinton
campaign manager Robby Mook said that it was “concerning last week that
Trump changed the Republican platform to become what some experts would
regard as pro-Russian.”
Other links between Trump and have also emerged.
The Washington Post revealed last month that Trump also relies heavily on Russian money.
“Russians
make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our
assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Junior reportedly said in 2008. “We see a
lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Trump’s campaign manager
Paul Manafort also used to be a lobbyist for the pro-Russian president
of Ukraine, who was ousted in 2014.
The Clinton campaign has
accused Moscow of trying to meddle in the US election and help Trump.
Adviser John Podesta pointed to a “bromance” between Trump and Putin.
“We
don’t have information right now about that, but what we have is a kind
of bromance going on between Vladimir Putin and Trump which is distinct
from this leak,” Podesta said in an MSNBC interview about the email
hack.

Donald Trump will need to address concerns over his links to Russia. Photo / AP
But Trump has dismissed the suggestion, tweeting: “The joke
in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC emails, which should
never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”
Trump’s senior policy adviser Paul Manafort called statements by the Clinton campaign “pretty desperate.”
“It’s a far reach, obviously,” Manafort told reporters.
“To
lead their convention with that tells me they really are trying to move
away from what the issues are going to be in this campaign. It’s pretty
absurd.”
Despite the denials, the controversy has shone a light
on Trump’s relationship with Russia and even has some asking whether
Trump is Putin’s puppet, and pointing to similarities between the two
men, whose are both “mean, xenophobic, nationalistic and
extreme”.
As the presidential campaign hots up, Trump will now
need to address concerns that his links to Russia won’t influence his
decisions in the Oval Office.

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