Wikileaks and the 2016 Election

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BY SEBASTIAN DUNCAN – STAFF WRITER

With less than a week remaining until the 2016 US Presidential Election kicks off, many people might find the amount of information being released about the election to be overwhelming and superfluous.

However, in the past couple of weeks a new factor has entered the presidential election, and although it is unclear how much of an impact it will have on the election, it has brought insights into how the Clinton campaign operates behind the scenes.

That factor is the release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private emails.  WikiLeaks published those emails daily throughout October, in conjunction with three transcripts of paid speeches that Hillary Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs.

WikiLeaks is a non-profit organization that publishes secret information through leaked documents, and its founder Julian Assange has had nearly as much media attention as WikiLeaks itself in the past month.

On October 16th, the Ecuadorian embassy cut off Assange’s internet access. Shortly after this occurred, WikiLeaks’ twitter account released three tweets that contained lines of an unintelligible code and the words “John Kerry”, “Ecuador”, and “UK FCO” (UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office).

Some newspapers reported on speculation that the three WikiLeaks tweets were signs of a “dead man’s switch” being activated. According to the BBC, this “dead man’s switch” was reported to be “an automated release of information triggered if someone did not regularly ‘check in’ to prove [Assange was] alive.” Since Assange did not have access to the internet, the twitter account would have been triggered automatically, which is why many believe the “dead man’s switch” became active.

The meaning of the tweets have prompted even more radical speculation, since WikiLeaks has accused John Kerry of asking the Ecuadorian embassy to cut off Assange’s internet in order to stop Assange from releasing more leaked documents from the Clinton campaign. While the news that the Ecuadorian embassy cut off Assange’s internet access is not insignificant, speculation about Assange has overshadowed the leaked emails and transcripts about Clinton.

Depending on political leanings, some might be disappointed by the revelations that Podesta’s emails brought, while others may be relieved.

The leaked emails and transcripts do not detail a great number of corrupt dealings perpetrated by Clinton. They reflect most negatively of Podesta, and much of the information that they reveal has very little to do with Clinton directly.

Donald Trump has been using the leaked documents as rhetoric against Clinton on the campaign trail, but the information published in the leaked documents is not nearly as damning for Clinton as Trump makes it out to be. However, the documents that WikiLeaks released expose some concerning aspects of the Clinton campaign.

Podesta’s emails don’t reveal much negative information about actions that Clinton committed directly, but they do contain transcripts of paid speeches that Clinton made to donors. In these speeches Clinton makes statements that contradict the positions that Clinton has taken on certain issues publicly.

In a paid speech Clinton gave to wall street bankers, she said the following:”…if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”

In another paid speech Clinton gave to the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, she stated a position that is very different from her current position on Syrian refugees. “[Jordan and Turkey] can’t possibly vet all those refugees, so they don’t know if, you know, jihadists are coming in along with legitimate refugees,” Clinton said. Clinton also made remarks that contradict her opposition to trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). When Clinton gave a paid speech to Banco Itau (a Brazilian bank), she said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders.” The most common theme that the transcripts of Clinton’s paid speeches reveal is that she caters to her audience. Clinton’s positions on issues tend to differ depending on the demographics of who she is addressing.

The leaked emails also reflect badly on organizations that are not directly involved in Clinton’s campaign.

On March 12th, Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Donna Brazile sent the Clinton campaign an email which contained a question that Clinton would be asked at a CNN Town Hall event. Brazile, a former CNN contributor, told the Clinton campaign, “from time to time I get the questions in advance.” However, it is unclear whether the Clinton campaign is accountable for the information that Clinton received, or if the blame should lie solely with the DNC and CNN.

While what effect WikiLeaks will have on the presidential election is uncertain, what is certain is that Assange is not intentionally attempting to assist Trump. According to Assange’s closest advisor Sarah Harrison, Assange “said that choosing between Trump and Clinton is like choosing between gonorrhea and syphilis.”

One thing is clear: for better or worse, organizations such as WikiLeaks contribute to the cynicism and pessimism of American voters. Both Trump and Clinton have had information leaked about them that might have been devastating to their campaigns in any other presidential election.

The transcripts of Clinton’s speeches and Podesta’s leaked emails raise concerns over how quickly Clinton changes her positions on issues in order to appeal to her audience. However, the leaked emails may not be as damaging to Clinton’s campaign as scandals such as the leaked 2005 NBC tape might be for Trump’s campaign.

Regardless of what effect WikiLeaks will have on next week’s election, it contributes to the overwhelming dissatisfaction that Americans have with the presidential candidates.


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