Just how much influence did Russia’s cyber attacks on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have on the 2016 presidential election?
While there will likely never be definitive proof showing that Russia’s attacks put President Donald Trump in the White House, a new forensic analysis conducted by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, concludes that Russian interference was “likely” a definitive factor in Trump’s upset election win.
In an interview with the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, Jamieson said that she does not think Trump would be president if not for Russia’s operations to help get him elected.
Interestingly, Jamieson said that she thinks Russia achieved this without hacking into voting machines and changing votes — rather, she said they achieved it through persuasive propaganda.
“I’m not arguing that Russians pulled the voting levers,” she explained. “I’m arguing that they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”
One particularly crucial period came in between the first and second presidential debates, when WikiLeaks had started dumping emails hacked from Clinton’s campaign. Jamieson told Mayer that this dump of stolen emails came at the perfect time for Trump, who had just been hit with a leaked video of him boasting about committing sexual assault.
Additionally, the WikiLeaks emails also overshadowed recent revelations that the Russian government was working to directly interfere with the election.
“She asks readers to imagine how different the 2016 election might have been if Trump’s campaign had also been hacked, disgorging the e-mails of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump, Jr.,” writes Mayer. “Among other things, this would have exposed correspondence about the notorious June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, and Trump’s payoffs to a pornographic actress and to a Playboy model.”
Even more importantly, Jamieson pointed out that Russian hackers successfully stole the Clinton campaign’s data analytics and voter turnout models.
“So we’re starting to close in on a pretty strong inference that they had everything needed to target the messaging [at] key constituencies that did effectively mobilize in this election,” she explained to Mayer.