Hillary Clinton Accuses Russia of Interfering With U.S. Election
Hillary Clinton accused Russian intelligence of interfering with the American election, implying that President Vladimir V. Putin viewed a victory by Donald J. Trump as a destabilizing event that would weaken the United States and buttress Russian interests.
“It’s almost unthinkable,” Mrs. Clinton said on Monday, referring to what she called recent “credible reports about Russian interference in our elections” and citing a hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails in July.
“We’ve never had the nominee of one of our major parties urging the Russians to hack,” Mrs. Clinton said in a news conference. “I want everyone — Democrat, Republican, Independent — to understand the real threat that this represents.”
The comments, Mrs. Clinton’s most extensive yet on one of the more unusual subplots of the presidential campaign, came after a Washington Post report that United States intelligence and law enforcement agencies are probing a wide, covert Russian effort to disrupt the presidential election.
Asked by a reporter if Russia’s actions amounted to a cyberwar, Mrs. Clinton said, “I’m not comfortable using the word ‘war.’”
But she said she viewed the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, which American officials have linked to Russian intelligence agencies, and warnings there could be additional breaches intended to influence the presidential campaign “a threat from an adversarial foreign power.”
In conversations lately with donors, Mrs. Clinton has urged noncomplacency. She has stressed that foreign enemies who hope Mr. Trump will succeed, in order to weaken the United States, may try to disrupt the November results, perhaps with a cyberattack.
Hours after President Obama met with Mr. Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hangzhou, China, Mrs. Clinton delivered a harsh assessment of the Russian leader’s role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and potential future breaches.
“When Putin was asked about it, he could barely muster the energy to deny it, if any of you saw it,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding that the Russian president, whom she clashed with as secretary of state, “and the team around him certainly believe that there is some benefit to them to doing this.”
After talks stalled between Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin on how to handle the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Mrs. Clinton cast blame partly on the Russians for failing to come up with a solution.
“The whole situation has deteriorated in many ways because of the refusal of the Russians and the Iranians to put the kind of pressure on Assad that is necessary to reach an accommodation that would save lives,” she said, referring to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
While the White House opposes putting into effect a partial no-fly zone in Syria, Mrs. Clinton reiterated her support for such action. “I think we need leverage,” she said. “I’ve always believed that if that were on the table and it were clear we were going to pursue it, that would give us the leverage we don’t have now.”
Asked about potential conflicts of interest between Clinton Foundation donors and aides who worked in Mrs. Clinton’s State Department, she brought the lengthy exchange with reporters back to national security and defended her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat.
“Everything I did at the State Department, I did in furtherance of America’s interest and security,” she said. “The State Department said there’s absolutely no evidence of any kind of external influence.”
Even amid her tough talk regarding Mr. Putin, Mrs. Clinton stopped short of saying the Russians wanted to help elect Mr. Trump. Instead, she pointed to an old saying from Arkansas. “If you find a turtle on a fence post, it didn’t get there by itself,” she said.