Hillary Clinton’s campaign is stepping up its criticism of Donald Trump and the hacking of its campaign e-mails, comparing it to the Watergate break-in that brought down President Richard Nixon.
In an essay posted Saturday on the Medium website, Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said Russia’s involvement in the hacking of campaign chairman John Podesta’s e-mail “is no longer in question,’’ and that despite his denials, Trump knows this and is defending Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Why is Trump protecting Putin by lying about Russia’s role in these hacks?’’ Caplin wrote in the post. Borrowing a phrase from the Watergate investigation, he added: “What did his campaign know and when did they know it? Why won’t he condemn this?’’
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.
WikiLeaks has posted thousands of e-mails — seven batches so far — purported to come from Podesta’s personal account. The notes provide details including discussions among campaign staff about how to handle Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state, and potentially political damaging comments from private speeches she gave to Wall Street firms.
The Clinton campaign has suggested the e-mails might have been fabricated or doctored and has sought to shift the focus to allegations of whether Russia is responsible for the hacking, and to Trump’s response.
On Friday, former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell said on a media call organized by Clinton’s campaign that Trump is encouraging Russian infiltration of computer systems that represent an “attack on our democracy.’’ Morell said it’s “absolutely clear’’ Russia is behind hacks and Trump should acknowledge it. He suggested Putin has played Trump “like a fiddle.’’
In his post, Caplin said that Trump has questioned whether Russia is behind the hacking, even though he reportedly has received intelligence briefings on the matter in which Russia’s involvement has been laid out.
The hacking and posting of the e-mails “are clearly trying to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign,’’ just as the break-in at the Democratic National Committee at Washington’s Watergate Hotel was part of an effort to help Nixon’s re-election in 1972, Caplin said.
“Four decades later, we’re witnessing another effort to steal private campaign documents in order to influence an election,’’ he wrote. “This time, instead of filing cabinets, it’s people’s e-mails they’re breaking into…and a foreign government is behind it.’’