WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 (UPI) — Hillary Clinton stopped short of accusing Russia of engaging the United States in a “cyberwar” but said the hacking of the Democratic National Committee was committed by Russia for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the presidential election.
Clinton, speaking to reporters aboard her newly unveiled campaign airplane where she held a press conference with reporters — her first in nearly 9 months — said Russian President Vladimir Putin “could barely muster the energy to deny” allegations his country was behind the DNC hack when asked about it at the Group of 20 summit in China over the weekend.
Clinton said the United States has “credible reports about Russia interfering in our election,” something she said was “almost unthinkable.”
Asked by reporters whether she believed Russia was engaging in a “cyberwar” or that they were trying to help her opponent Donald Trump win the presidency, Clinton did not agree with the characterization.
“I am not comfortable using the word ‘war,'” Clinton said. Instead, she labeled it a “threat from an adversarial foreign power.”
Clinton did not directly state that the Russians are trying to tip the election toward Trump, but instead invoked an old saying from Arkansas to answer the question.
“If you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn’t get there by accident,” she said. “I think it’s quite intriguing that this activity has happened around the time Trump became the nominee.”
She did take Trump to task directly for comments shortly after the DNC hack became public, where he appeared to encourage the Russians to continue snooping into Clinton’s emails to reveal more embarrassing details about her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Democrats and some Republicans scolded Trump at the time for encouraging a foreign adversary to engage in espionage against the United States.
“We’ve never had the nominee of one of our major parties urging the Russians to hack,” Clinton said Monday. “I want everyone — Democrat, Republican, independent — to understand the real threat that this represents.”
Trump has said the comment was meant as a joke.
The FBI and intelligence officials have said they have credible evidence that Russian state actors were behind the DNC hack, which caused a political uproar on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, when emails between top DNC staff members were leaked, showing bias in favor of Clinton during her primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The DNC is supposed to remain a neutral arbiter in party primaries, though Sanders charged repeatedly throughout the campaign that the DNC was working covertly to help tip the scales toward Clinton, whom he believed was the party’s preferred candidate.
DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and several top aides resigned, other staff members were disciplined or fired and the organization issued a formal apology to Sanders and his supporters for the DNC’s closed-door conduct during the primary.