The president-elect suggested that whoever stole tens of thousands of emails from top Democratic officials and leaked them online was actually doing America a favor.
It’s unclear what prompted Trump to pose this question to his 17 million Twitter followers at six o’clock in the morning.
What is clear is that the hacking to which Trump was referring was the same Russian state-sponsored attack that he’s repeatedly downplayed and dismissed. They showed that Donna Brazile, who was interim chair of the DNC at the time of the leak, had shared a primary debate question with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, ahead of a March debate between the Democratic presidential candidate and her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Trump’s tweet was worrisome for several reasons, least of which is that Brazile did not do anything “illegal” by sharing the question with Clinton. It was certainly unethical. But there is no law governing what a party official can do with questions if they receive them ahead of a primary debate.
The bigger problem with Trump’s tweet, however, is that he’s asking Americans to view this massive cyber-espionage campaign ― in which Russian hackers also targeted Republican political committees, candidates and campaign staff ― as some kind of public service to America, because it “revealed” that Brazile had shared a debate question.
At the same time, Trump appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the Russian cyberattack was just that, an attack by a foreign power. According to U.S. intelligence agencies, the attack was designed to undermine Americans’ confidence in the democratic electoral system.
Instead, Trump got it backwards, falsely claiming that the Russians did the United States a favor by exposing “illegal” activity, even though it wasn’t actually illegal.
On Friday afternoon, Brazile tweeted that Russia had accomplished its purported objectives:
In order to govern the nation, Trump will need to stop viewing world events only in the context of whether they benefit him personally, or harm his personal enemies, and begin to see them for how they impact the nation as a whole.
Foreign cyberattacks like the ones Russia launched this year served to weaken confidence in our democratic electoral system, and in turn weakened the nation. As president, Trump will need to understand this.
Clarification: Language has been changed to clarify that Brazile was interim chair of the DNC at the time of the leak, not when she allegedly provided Clinton with a debate question.