Investigation continues; impact measured, Trump involvement questioned
Is Russia tampering with American public opinion? Did Russia meddle in our election? This is a question that hung over the 2016 presidential election, and since then, all of Donald Trump’s presidency. After firing the head of the FBI (supposedly for influencing the election days before Election Day by reopening the Clinton email investigation) Trump appointed a special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, to investigate whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians to affect the election. While there are still a lot of things up in the air, it has become clear that Russia did try to tamper with our election.
The Russian’s attempts to meddle in American politics began four years ago, with the intent to take down any bid for presidency made by Hillary Clinton. When Trump came along, Russia worked to aid his campaign. Recently, Mueller accused 13 Russians and three companies with interfering in the 2016 election to benefit Trump’s campaign. Mueller’s indictment does not say that the Russian government was involved in the meddling, nor did it bring up Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), so there is probably more to come. His indictment also shed a lot of light on the methods used to undermine our election.
The campaign to undermine Clinton involved supporting Sanders, Trump and eventually Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, by using bots on social media to give people the impression of overwhelming support of the other candidates, and overwhelming dislike of Clinton. Russians also hacked the DNC and the computer of Clinton’s campaign chairman. They then published information that would harm Clinton’s campaign. It is pretty clear that the Russians were very strategic in the timing of their publishing, which leads to the question: were they coordinating with Trump’s campaign?
According to The New York Times, “[there is] extensive evidence of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign.” For instance, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer to receive negative information about Clinton. The question that remains is: was that illegal?
Until Mueller completes his investigation, we can’t know exactly what has happened or will happen. There are three big questions that need to be answered: Were Russia’s attempts to impact our election successful? Did Trump (or his campaign) collude with Russia (illegally) to win the election? And was the Russian government involved in these attacks on our democracy?