In Summer 2015, someone hacked into the e-mail server of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The motivation for launching the attack is un-clear. Both the Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders insurgencies were inconsequential at the time and appeared unlikely to go anywhere. Hillary Clinton appeared to be a shoe-in as the Democratic nominee. So, it may have been an ordinary cyber-attack of the sort intelligence agencies run all the time.
In April 2016, for some reason the DNC became concerned that its server had been hacked. The DNC hired CrowdStrike, a private cyber-security firm, and notified that F.B.I that it might have been the target of a cyber-attack. The issue has been under investigation since then.
Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeak, feels a deep personal animus toward Hillary Clinton. Apparently, he has a fit of the sulks just because she tried to get him tossed in prison while she served as Secretary of State. On 12 June 2016, Assange told a British television journalist that he had “great emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.” The journalist appears to have misunderstood the import of Assange’s words, but it seems unlikely that American intelligence officers made the same mistake. They already knew about the hack of the DNC. They would have recognized that release of the DNC e-mails was at hand.
On 21 July 2016, American security officials discussed the report issued by CrowdStrike. The report argued that Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (successor to the Soviet-era KGB) had engineered the attack. On 22 July 2016, a large trove of DNC internal messages reached the public through multiple routes. One source used the name “Guccifer 2.0”; another was the WikiLeaks site. The messages so far discussed show DNC support for Hillary Clinton, rather than an even-handed treatment of Bernie Sanders. On 26 July 2016, un-named Obama administration officials told reporters that American intelligence had “high confidence” that organs of the Russian government had hacked the computer servers of the DNC “Guccifer 2.0” is thought to be working for Russian military intelligence (GRU).
The administration sources also raised the possibility that the hack formed part of an effort to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, rather than merely a piece of everyday cyber-espionage. John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign, quickly took up this line of argument. While admitting that he had no evidence that the Russians were trying to get Trump elected, but he left open the possibility. Trump quickly punched back that the suggestions of Russian support for Trump were intended to distract attention from the content of the WikiLeaks documents. Soon afterward, assuming that the Russians had hacked Clinton’s own server while she was Secretary of State, he called for them to release the 30,000 deleted personal e-mails.
Did the Obama administration co-ordinate its response—especially the suggestion that the Russians favor Trump–with the DNC?
Why would the Russians meddle in an American election?
 In November 2010, WikiLeaks published a huge trove of diplomatic and military documents provided to it by Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning. Manning got a 35 year sentence. Soon afterward, Assange found himself charged with a crime in Sweden. He feared that answering the charges in Sweden would soon lead to his extradition to the United States. The Manning case may have influenced Edward Snowden to seek refuge in Russia.
 Charlie Savage, “Democratic Email Release Was Timed for Convention,” NYT, 27 July 2016.
 David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.,” NYT, 27 July 2016.
 Thus the FSB may have hacked the server, but GRU disseminated the material. Why would separate intelligence agencies co-operate on a major initiative without having approval from their superiors?
 Ashley Parker and David E. Sanger, “Trump Eggs On Moscow In Hack of Clinton Email,” NYT, 28 July 2016.