A trio of national security and foreign affairs experts supporting Hillary Clinton on Friday chastised Donald Trump for promoting hacked emails obtained by WikiLeaks and declining to condemn the alleged role of the Russian government in the episode.
“He is encouraging this attack on our democracy,” Michael Morell, a former acting director the Central Intelligence Agency, said of Trump, whom Morell accused of aiding an attempt by Russian Vladimir Putin to influence the U.S. presidential election.
“Trump is cozying up to Putin, because Putin has played him like a fiddle,” Morell said in a conference call with reporters coordinated by Clinton’s campaign.
Since last Friday, WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization, has been publishing thousands of emails stolen from the personal account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. Trump, the Republican nominee, has seized on some of them to accuse his Democratic opponent of improper contact with the Obama administration and hostility toward Catholics, among other things.
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have blamed Russian intelligence agencies for earlier hacks of Democratic Party organizations and are investigating whether the Podesta hack is part of the same effort.
Trump has declined to condemn Russia for the hack of Podesta’s emails and the earlier attacks, saying it is unclear who to blame.
Matthew G. Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who also participated in Friday’s call, said Trump “may be the only person outside the Kremlin” not to recognize Russia’s role in the hacks, and he accused Trump of effectively cheering on WikiLeaks by talking about the hacked emails at his rallies.
Jamie Rubin, a former assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said Trump’s unwillingness to condemn Russia shows “he does not understand what it takes to defend the United States.”
Rubin also said it was clear from Russia’s actions which candidate Putin would like to see prevail in next month’s election.
“It’s not an accident that all the interference, all the cybersabotage has helped only one side,” Rubin said.
Friday’s conference call was the latest attempt by the Clinton campaign to focus attention related to Podesta’s email on the source of the hack rather than the content of the documents, which have offered a window in the inner-workings of the Clinton campaign.
Podesta has previously said it would be reasonable to conclude that Trump had advance warning of the release of his email, citing the role of former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Stone has acknowledged having “back-channel” discussions with WikiLeaks, but he has denied being notified ahead of time that Podesta’s emails would be published.
WikiLeaks has declined to reveal the source of the hack.