Unless something changes between now and November, the winner in the 2016 US Presidential election will be Vladmir Putin. He must be absolutely thrilled with how the election here in America is going. Recently I saw someone on Twitter suggest that sometime in October he might help out his buddy Trump by sharing proof that Russia hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. In all likelihood, that kind of October Surprise would lead to a Trump victory. That got me thinking. Let’s assume that Russia really did get her email (and all the secrets therein). It’s certainly not an unreasonable assumption; many experts have said it’s not just possible but is highly likely. That gives Putin the power to influence the election, if he prefers to see Donald Trump in the White House. And there’s a lot of reasons he would like that. Trump has indicated on more than one ocassion that he admires Putin, and it’s clear they think alike in many ways. Add that to Trump’s willful ignorance on… everything, and Putin has an opponent that he can easily outmanuver on the global stage. A Donald Trump administration would lead to an increase in Russian power and a corresponding reduction in American power.
That’s a fairly unpleasant situation. But what if Putin doesn’t make that choice? This is actually worse. First, he gets the advantage of keeping us in the dark as to what secrets Russia was able to obtain from Clinton’s server, or if they even successfully hacked it. (Hopefully we’re already assuming they did.) It also could set up a scenario beyond his wildest dreams. Let’s say that, as seems likely, the Justice Department chooses to not prosecute Clinton over the results of the FBI investigation. It’s blatant political partisianship, but in the absence of any evidence that real damage was done to US interests the spin we’ll hear is ‘no harm, no foul’ and that we should move on. Half of the country will shrug and agree that the rules everyone else follows don’t apply to Clinton. She’ll go on to crush Donald Trump in the general election. In this scenario Putin has information that the new President will desperately want to keep under wraps. Having the smoking gun of a successful hack show up to corroborate the FBI report (which will surely be leaked by this point) would throw a Republican controlled Congress into a feeding frenzy. Hillary Clinton would be the second President Clinton to be impeached, and this time it would stick. All Putin has to do is quietly let her know he’s got the proof, and he’s got a gun he can hold to her head whenever he needs it. What would a President Clinton do to keep that knowledge secret? Can we trust that Hillary Clinton would put the interests of her country above her own? (Stop laughing.)
There’s no guarantee that this works as well for Putin as it might. Even if he releases the information in support of Trump, the Clintons are the undisputed champions of scandal survival. She could still win the election, and in doing so leave Putin without that lever to use against her. (He might have others.) Or if he waits on a Clinton win, she might trust a Democrat controlled Congress to not impeach and dare him to go ahead and reveal Russia’s successful hack. Regardless, even in the best case it would be a weakened Clinton administration with less ability to influence world affairs. Putin wouldn’t have his dream situation, but it would still be one he likes.
All in all, one more way that primary voters and our political parties have screwed over America this year.