At least one thing is very clear from former Secretary of State Colin Powell's recently leaked emails: he is not a fan of either candidate. Powell called Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a "national disgrace and international pariah." But, he didn't mince words about Hillary Clinton either, saying "everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris."
However, there are larger concerns than Powell's sharp-tongued assessments of the two presidential candidates. Many national security experts are already linking this newest leak to Russian government-backed hackers. Moreover, on Tuesday, the same day Powell's emails were leaked by DCleaks, "Guccifer 2.0" hacked Democratic National Committee emails. DNC interim chair Donna Brazile released a statement:
The DNC is the victim of a crime — an illegal cyberattack by Russian state-sponsored agents who seek to harm the Democratic Party and progressive groups in an effort to influence the presidential election.
BuzzFeed, one of the first outlets to break the Powell email story, noted DCLeaks "has reported, but not confirmed, ties to Russian intelligence service." ABC News also noted, "The private cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect has reported its suspicion that DCLeaks is a Russian-backed operation, linked to the notorious hacker Guccifer 2.0."
This information has raised some serious questions, perhaps a prime one being: Would Russia go so far as to directly influence our presidential election?
On ABC's This Week, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that there are concerns about protecting our election system from cyber attacks. However, he added that "it would be very hard to actually alter a ballot count because our election process is so decentralized — there's some 9,000 jurisdictions ... that are involved in the election process." Then again, hackers (who are suspected but not confirmed to be Russian) have already flexed their muscles in Arizona and Illinois, by penetrating those states' election systems in August.
Russia almost certainly wants Donald Trump to come out on top this election (in case Trump's Putin crush didn't tip you off). But why would Russia want to get Trump into the White House so badly?
Russia — specifically President Vladimir Putin — has long been vilified by U.S. officials. Relations are tense, as the two nations do not see eye-to-eye on many issues. However, Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his admiration for Putin and his strong-arm methods of governance.
While Russia and the United States brokered a cease-fire for war-torn Syria, it is no secret that the two countries do not have the same long-term plans for the country. Russia has vetoed United Nations measures forcing Assad to resign, even though the United States has aimed to remove Assad from power under Obama's tenure (albeit without success). So, wouldn't Putin prefer a presidential candidate who doesn't seem to have all that much interest in fighting Assad?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal aimed at improving trade relations in the region and providing a trade bloc to withstand China's influence, has taken on a starring role in this election. Clinton, who helped create the deal, was critical of it during the primaries, some say in order to sway Bernie Sanders' supporters, for whom disapproval of the trade deal was a major platform point. Some speculate that after the election, Clinton would again support the TPP. Russia is not included in the trade deal, and Putin has been critical of it. Trump too has said he is against it. Doesn't take much string to draw the connection there.