Russia Ran the Most Epic Ratfucking Operation in History This Year

Back during the campaign, I was vaguely aware that the Russians had hacked not just the DNC, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well. For some reason, though, I never put two and two together long enough to think about what this hack might mean. In my defense, no one else seems to have given it much thought either—despite the fact that hacked documents were showing up in local races all over the country:

The intrusions in House races in states including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and North Carolina can be traced to tens of thousands of pages of documents taken from the D.C.C.C., which shares a Capitol Hill office building with the Democratic National Committee….The seats that Guccifer 2.0 targeted in the document dumps were hardly random: They were some of the most competitive House races in the country.

….In Florida, Guccifer 2.0’s most important partner was an obscure political website run by an anonymous blogger called HelloFLA!, run by a former Florida legislative aide turned Republican lobbyist. The blogger sent direct messages via Twitter to Guccifer 2.0 asking for copies of any additional Florida documents. “I can send you some docs via email,” Guccifer 2.0 replied on Aug. 22….“I don’t think you realize what you gave me,” the blogger said, looking at the costly internal D.C.C.C. political research that he had just been provided. “This is probably worth millions of dollars.”

The hacked documents played a big role in a Florida congressional primary between Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia:

After Mr. Garcia defeated Ms Taddeo in the primary using the material unearthed in the hacking, the National Republican Campaign Committee and a second Republican group with ties to the House speaker, Paul Ryan, turned to the hacked material to attack him.

….After the first political advertisement appeared using the hacked material, [DCCC chair Ben Ray] Luján wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee urging him to not use this stolen material in the 2016 campaign….Ms. Pelosi sent a similar letter in early September to Mr. Ryan. Neither received a response. By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking Mr. Garcia during the general election in Florida.

The basic story here is simple: the Russians hacked, the media gave the revelations big play, and Republicans gleefully made use of the Russian agitprop. Altogether, the Russians released hacked documents from four different sources:

  • DNC
  • DCCC
  • The Clinton Foundation
  • John Podesta

But nothing was ever released from any Republican sources—despite the fact that, according to the New York Times, the Russians had hacked the RNC and possibly other Republican accounts as well. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s a good chance they hacked a few people at the Trump Organization too. So here’s where we are:

  • The Russians ran a very sophisticated operation designed to hack into both US government servers and the servers of US political organizations.
  • They released only hacked documents from Democratic organizations. Republicans were left alone.
  • The intelligence community told high-ranking leaders of both parties what was going on, but Republicans flatly opposed any public acknowledgment of what was happening.
  • Republicans cheerfully made use of all the hacked material, even though they knew exactly where it came from.

At this point, you need to be willfully blind to pretend this was anything other than what it was: a ratfucking operation on an epic scale aimed squarely at Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. And while it was happening, Republicans were happy to play along.

It’s inevitable that more details are going to emerge about all this—about both the hacking itself and Republican complicity in making use of the Russian material. This is not something that can be forgiven quickly or easily. Republicans may or may not care about this, but they’re going to have live with a smoldering, bitter anger from their Democratic colleagues for a very long time.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.