Clinton Camp Says Putin Remarks Show Aim of Disrupting Electionby
Spokesman links Trump allies to efforts to inflict damage
Putin, in interview, denies Russian role in DNC e-mail breach
Hillary Clinton’s campaign struck back at assertions by Russian President Vladimir Putin that the hacking of Democratic Party groups was a public service and accused him of endorsing “foreign interference” in the U.S. presidential election.
Clinton spokesman Jesse Lehrich said experts have concluded Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee e-mails that were released by WikiLeaks just before the former secretary of state was to formally accept the party’s nomination. Lehrich sought to draw a connection to Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign.
“Unsurprisingly, Putin has joined Trump in cheering foreign interference in the U.S. election that is clearly designed to inflict political damage on Hillary Clinton and Democrats,” Lehrich said in an e-mail. “This is a national security issue and every American deserves answers about potential collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin."
Lehrich was reacting to Putin’s remarks in a Bloomberg News interview in which he called the DNC breach and subsequent publishing of the documents a service to the public. The release led to the resignation of top DNC officials and became a distraction for Clinton just before the Democratic convention in July.
Putin denied accusations that Russia’s government was behind the cyber intrusions.
“Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?’’ Putin said in the interview in the Pacific port city Vladivostok on Thursday. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.’’
U.S. officials blame hackers guided by the Russian government for the attacks on DNC servers earlier this year that resulted in WikiLeaks publishing about 20,000 private e-mails among party officials, some of which showed them undermining Clinton’s chief Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.
Lehrich said longtime Trump ally Roger Stone has admitted being in contact with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and said both “are promising more leaks targeting Clinton as the election approaches, something Donald Trump actively invited.”
A Trump adviser, retired Lieutenant Genera Michael Flynn, said Clinton needs to explain her “deeply disturbing record on Russia,” accusing her of engaging in a quid pro quo arrangements linked to Clinton Foundation donations.
Putin also denounced what he called the use of “the anti-Russian card” by both candidates, saying it is “shortsighted.”
Clinton and Trump have traded charges about Kremlin influence. Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook has accused Trump of having “deep financial ties that potentially reach into the Kremlin,” suggesting he could be “just a puppet” for the Russian government. Trump has accused the State Department under Clinton of approving the Russian takeover of uranium assets in the U.S. after investors in the deal paid $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, and in July he invited Russia to dig up thousands of documents that were deleted from Clinton’s personal e-mail server.
Flynn cited the uranium case as “a case study in Clinton corruption that has severely undermined U.S. national security interests.” The the nonpartisan fact-checking website PolitiFact has rated the Trump campaign’s assertions about it as “Mostly False.”