In 2015 and again in Spring 2016, Soviet–sorry, Russian—intelligence agencies “hacked” into the e-mail servers of the Democratic National Committee. In addition, they gained access to the e-mail account of John Podesta. Furthermore, they hacked into the e-mails servers of the Republican National Committee. In Summer 2016, they passed these ill-gotten gains to WikiLeaks and to a blog called Guccifer 2.0.
Before the presidential election, the consensus seems to have been that the Russians were just trying to sap Americans’ confidence in their democracy. Immediately after Donald Trump’s up-set win over Hillary Clinton, however, the Central Intelligence Agency immediately concluded that the Russians had been attempting to shift the election in Trump’s favor. Part of the reason for this analysis lies in the fact that the Russians released only material that cast an unfavorable light on Clinton, while not releasing anything gleaned from the Republican servers.
Did the e-mails stolen by the Russians harm Hillary Clinton’s chances of being elected president? The stolen e-mails showed that the Clinton campaign considered taking contributions from foreign governments; that Clinton told a Wall Street audience that politicians “need both a public and a private position”; that the campaign had friendly contacts in the media; that the Democratic National committee had, contrary to its public professions, sought to obstruct the campaign of Bernie Sanders and to favor that of Clinton; and that the fire-wall between Secretary of State Clinton and the Clinton Foundation had not been so tight as had been promised.
Since the election much attention has focused on so-called “fake news” that favored Trump. However, there is little evidence of any attempt to use “fake news” to favor Trump or harm Clinton. The bulk of “fake news” stories appear to have been generated in non-Russian Eastern European countries where entrepreneurs were pursuing profits, rather than a political agenda. Apparently, the Russkies believed that “real news” would do enough damage.
Why would the Russians want to affect the outcome of the election? Possibly, they wanted to see Trump in the White House. Possibly the Russians hoped for someone more tractable in the White House. Possibly they wanted to erode American confidence in democracy over the long run.
Possibly Vladimir Putin doesn’t care who is President of the United States so long as it isn’t Hillary Clinton. It’s only conjecture, but while Clinton served as Secretary of State, she had participated in a “re-set” of relations with Russia. However, part of this effort took the form of an effort by President Obama to slime-up to Putin’s assistant, Dmitry Medvedev, in the ill-conceived expectation that he could supplant Putin. Furthermore, while Clinton served as Secretary of State, the United States won Russian assent in the U.N. Security Council for the use air power to defend anti-government rebels in Libya. The Russian price had been an American promise not to overthrow the Libyan government itself. Finally, Putin saw the work in Russia by the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy as foreign meddling. After the December 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia were “won” by Putin’s party, substantial anti-Putin protests took place. Immediately, Clinton publicly endorsed the position of the protestors by describing the elections as “neither free, nor fair.” Pay-back.
 Max Fisher, “Russia and the U.S. Election: What’s Known and What Isn’t,” NYT, 13 December 2016.
 “[N]ot all intelligence agencies share the C.I.A.’s view.” Ibid.
 Perhaps nothing embarrassing could be found on the Republican servers. Perhaps pigs have wings.
 See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podesta_emails#Contents; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Democratic_National_Committee_email_leak#Contents; https://waroftheworldblog.com/2016/12/04/the-e-mails/
 On the NED, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Endowment_for_Democracy#Russia