The Trump administration has been unequivocal in its denial of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Immediately following the election in 2016, Trump told Time, “I don’t believe they interfered”.
Then came the release of a 15-page report from the CIA, NSA and FBI, fingering the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, for its involvement in swinging American voters. Trump amended his position but remained convinced that it “had no impact on our votes whatsoever.”
New forensic analysis findings from Kathleen Hall Jamieson at the University of Pennsylvania indicate that Russian cyber attacks had a profound impact on the 2016 election. The professor of communications concluded that interference from Russian military intelligence agencies was “likely” a significant factor in the 2016 election result.
In an interview with Jane Mayer from The New Yorker, Jamieson indicated that without Russian interference, she does not believe Trump would be in the White House. She asserted, “they persuaded enough people to either vote a certain way or not vote at all.”
Jamieson cited the Russian cyber theft and disclosure of Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails as a particularly critical juncture of the campaign. The timing was key. Trump’s campaign had been damaged by the leak of a video showing him bragging about sexual assault.
The public leak of Clinton’s emails drowned out the media coverage of Trump’s history of sexual assault, as well as recent aspersions over Russian interference which had begun to surface. The Guardian reports that Russians were working to break into Clinton’s email accounts as early as July 27th, 2016.
Jamieson implored the public to “imagine how different the 2016 election might have been if Trump’s campaign had also been hacked”. It would have meant the public disclosure of Trump’s payout to Stormy Daniels during the election campaign.
Among the files stolen in Russian cyber attacks were Clinton’s data analytics and models for voter turnout. Jamieson suggests that the Russian government were then able to target its propaganda at key constituencies to swing the election.
She explained, “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”.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s findings are significant. While it is almost impossible to fully assess the impact Russian propaganda had on the minds of American voters, the forensic analysis offers an insight into the disrupting effects Russian meddling had on the 2016 election.