Hacked Democratic Party Emails Reveal the Underside of Politics

     (CN) — As intrigue deepens over the hacker behind the unveiling of Democratic Party communications one thing is obvious: the more than 19,000 internal emails and documents leaked in advance of the Democratic National Convention show the dark underbelly of politics as practiced by both parties.
     The emails and documents released by Wikileaks on Friday lift the shade on a concerted effort by Democratic officials to stymie the insurgent campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and assure a victory by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apparently at all costs, moral and otherwise.
     The documents showed officials in their own damning words working to undermine the Sanders campaign throughout the primary campaign.
     “The scandal is not what they can do that is illegal,” said Larry Noble, general counsel for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, in an interview. “It is what they can do that is legal.”
     He said the WikiLeaks revelations are like “turning over the rock and showing you what happens routinely in both political parties.”
     Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was particularly strident in pursuing her pro-Clinton agenda, resigned in the wake of the revelations, and news outlets have continued to sift through communications that appear to show fundraisers offering access to President Barack Obama and others for major donors.
     So angry are Sanders supporters over the revelations that they booed their candidate when he persisted Monday morning to urge them to vote for Clinton.
     As the leaks roiled the start of the party’s convention in Philadelphia on Monday, the FBI confirmed that it is on the hunt for the perpetrators.
     “The FBI is investigating a cyber intrusion involving the DNC and is working to determine the nature and scope of the matter,” the bureau said in a statement. “A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”
     WikiLeaks has refused to identify its source for the massive trove but promised more revelations to come.
     Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused Russia of being behind the leaks, for which a hacker going by the name Guccifer 2.0 has claimed credit.
     The original Guccifer, a Romanian named Marcel Lehel Lazar, has claimed to hack Clinton before, and admitted to an intrusion of “an immediate family member of two former U.S. presidents” — including George W. Bush.
     Vice News reported that Lazar’s namesake had a poor command of Romanian in a chat with its news team, and cyber-security firms quoted in the article tied an early hack Guccifer 2.0 claimed credit for to the Russian government.
     Seattle-based cyber-security expert Jeffrey Carr, the founder of Taia Global and author of the book “Inside Cyber Warfare,” scoffed at the supposed connection in a post on Medium, likening the reasoning some firms have used to support an alleged Russian connection to investigators arresting arms manufacturer Kalashnikov Concern because an AK-47 was found at a crime scene.
     In an interview with Democracy Now, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange denied any plot afoot to serve Russian President Vladimir Putin by helping Trump, comparing both of the major party candidates to a disease.
     When asked of his preference, Assange said: “You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?”
     Taking to Twitter, Trump also attacked the theory: “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me.”
     As the FBI’s investigation continues, the Washington Post and other outlets have noted that DNC fundraisers have pitched donors on a “roundtable” chat with Obama.
     As for Noble, he noted in speaking with Courthouse News that the Supreme Court recently found that buying access to politicians is legal in the case of Virginia’s former Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell.
     Before his convictions were overturned, McDonnell defended accepting $175,000 in loans and gifts from donors — including a Rolex, a shopping spree for his wife, and wedding presents for his daughters — on the grounds that he only set up meetings for his benefactors.
     The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that McDonnell’s actions were “distasteful” but legal, in a decision loosening federal bribery law and specifying that an “official” act must be more tangible.
     A longtime advocate for stronger campaign finance laws, the Campaign Legal Center fought against that decision, and Noble said the case shows that “what most people think of as corruption is unfortunately very legal.”
     CNN’s Jake Tapper highlighted another email showing the DNC’s National Finance Director Jordan Kaplan requesting a list of donors who may be interested in positions on boards and commissions.
     Here, Noble said, Democratic officials are on dicier legal ground because it is illegal to offer a government position in exchange for a donation. He noted, however, that he has not seen a smoking gun email so far that demonstrates an agreement to sell one of these seats.

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