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Recount Effort To Explore Whether Russia Hacked The Vote For Trump

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Recount Effort To Explore Whether Russia Hacked The Vote For Trump

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Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Investigating Russia’s role in interfering and possibly hacking the 2016 presidential election vote is at the center of the Green Party-led recount effort.

The recount entered a new phase on Saturday, when both the Hillary Clinton campaign and Donald Trump transition team issued dueling statements about the need to verify the votes in the three states that gave Trump an Electoral College majority. But beyond their appearances, with Clinton’s campaign saying it would participate in the effort, was a remarkable development: the prospect that recount will try to investigate the biggest unanswered question hanging over the election beside who won: did Russia take steps to hack the vote?

Trump called the recount a “ridiculous” effort by the Green that was fleecing donors of the nearly $6 million raised by midday Saturday. But the statement by the Clinton campaign’s top lawyer, Marc Elias, noted in its opening paragraphs that the election, the Democratic Party, and their campaign was repeatedly targeted by the Russians.

“This election cycle was unique in the degree of foreign interference witnessed throughout the campaign: the U.S. government concluded that Russian state actors were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the personal email accounts of Hillary for America campaign officials, and just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the “fake news” propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election,” Elias wrote on Medium.com, then elaborating their private investigative efforts to assess the impact of Russian interference in the campaign.

Going even further, the first recount petition filed by the Greens, in Wisconsin, primarily focused on Russian hacking, not on the more easily understood line of inquiry of different voting technologies reporting different margins of victory for Trump despite their location.

The Green’s petition opens by stating they believe “an irregularity” has occurred affecting the entire state. It goes on to say that in August, “foreign operators breached voter registration databases in at least two states and stole hundreds of thousands of voter records” at the same time the e-mail systems of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign were hacked and put online. It lists warnings by federal homeland security officials to states to take steps to protect these databases, and then lays out its theories. First, Wisconsin’s voting systems are aging and known to be susceptible to hackers, “including they can be breached without detection and even after certain security measures are put in place.” And that may account for “a significant increase in the number of absentee voters compared to the last general election. This significant increase could be attributed to a breach of the state’s electronic voter database.”

That summation and line of inquiry has been reported by AlterNet before. However, the Green’s petition, went further to explain what they are going to be looking for as the recount ensues. The first piece of supporting evidence is an affidavit by J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan professor of computer science and engineering, and director of the Center for Computer Security and Society based in Ann Arbor. He was part of the team set up by California’s ex-Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, that reviewed the vulnerability of its electronic voting systems and led to the state banning the same machines used in Wisconsin.

Russia tried to breach voter registration databases in 20 states last summer, Halderman said, citing the Department of Homeland Security as his source. “Russia has sophisticated cyber-offensive capabilities, and it has shown a willingness to use them to hack elections elsewhere. For instance, according to published reports, during the 2014 presidential election in Ukraine, attackers linked to Russia sabotaged Ukraine’s vote-counting infrastructure, and Ukranian officials succeeded only at the last minute in defusing the vote-stealing malware that could have caused the wrong winner to be announced,” he wrote, referencing and submitting a June 2014 Christian Science Monitor article that described the hacks and averted tampering.

Not mentioned in the Green’s filing was Paul Manafort, who came aboard Trump’s campaign last spring and shepherded it through the Republican National Convention until he was forced to resign because of a multi-million dollar cash payment from consulting in Ukraine, and he was working for the pro-Russian side of June 2014 Ukranian election, the Washington Post reported last August. “Even with [pro-Russian Viktor] Yanukovych out of the country, the [New York] Times reports Manafort kept working in Ukraine with the president’s former chief of staff to help keep the pro-Russian party in the political game. It worked. The party ended up being a significant influence in parliament.”

Halderman’s affidavit continued, saying the same vote tampering that occurred in Ukraine could have occurred in some of 2016’s presidential swing states.

“If a foreign government were to attempt to hack American voting machines to influence the outcome of a presidential election, one might expect the hackers to proceed as follows,” Halderman continued. “First, the attackers might probe election offices well in advance to find ways to break into the computers. Next, closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which state would have close electoral margin, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines into some of the states, manipulating the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor the desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, perform its function during the election, and then erase itself after the polls closed. One would expect a skilled attacker’s work to leave no visible signs, other than a surprising electoral outcome in which results in several close states differed from pre-election polling.”

America’s voting machinery is especially vulnerable to that scenario, Halderman said, noting that he personally has installed malware in electronic voting machines to achieve that exact result. Whether voting machines are connected to the Internet “is irrelevant,” he said, which is directly applicable to Wisconsin, where their safeguards include keeping their voting machines offline, state election officials have previously told AlterNet. All it takes is one memory card to be inserted into the system at any point, he said, for such malware to be spread.

“This explanation is plausible, in light of other known cyber attacks intended to affect the outcome of the election; the profound vulnerability of American voting machines to cyberattack; and the fact that a skilled attacker would leave no outwardly visible evidence of an attack other than an unexpected result,” Halderman reiterated. “The only way to determine whether a cyber attack affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is to examine the available physical evidence—that is, to count the paper ballots and paper audit trail records, and review the voting equipment… Using the electronic equipment to conduct the recount, even after first evaluating the machine through a test deck, is insufficient. Attackers intending to commit a successful cyber attack could, and likely would, create a method to undermine any pre-tests… Voting equipment that might yield forensic evidence of an attack includes the voting machines, removable media, and election management system computers. Paper ballot, paper audit trails, and voting equipment will only be examined in this manner if there is a recount.”

This scenario of examining the entire voting system is not what the state of Wisconsin is envisioning when conducting the recount, according to a statement by the state election administrator, Michael Hass, on Friday, saying that the Green Party has filed for its recount.

“In a recount, all ballots (including those that were originally hand counted) are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated. In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.”

Haas said that the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s role in the recount is “to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.” This is a new state board composed of partisan appointees by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who disbanded the state’s former Government Accountability Board, which was comprised of retired state judges and was among the most highly respected election oversight panel in the country.

In other words, these preliminary and contradictory statements from the Clinton campaign, Green Party and Wisconsin election administrator show why the upcoming presidential recount is not just going to be controversial and headed into court at many steps along the way. It shows that the Greens are taking the lead in advancing the one storyline that the Clinton campaign did not get the media to heed—the extent to which Russia may have tampered with America’s voting machinery and tilted the result to a candidate who embraced Vladimir Putin.

“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” Clinton counsel Marc Elias said on Saturday. “The campaign is grateful to all those who have expended time and effort to investigate various claims of abnormalities and irregularities. While that effort has not, in our view, resulted in evidence of manipulation of results, now that a recount is underway, we believe we have an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton to participate in ongoing proceedings to ensure that an accurate vote count will be reported.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights, campaigns and elections, and many social justice issues. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

IMAGE: A ballot is placed into a locked ballot box by a poll worker as people line-up to vote early at the San Diego County Elections Office in San Diego, California, U.S., November 7, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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26 Comments

  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 27, 2016

    Since Trump has steadfastly refused to reveal his tax records, and given that he and Putin have this unnatural and abnormal “bromance” between the two of them, it is quite reasonable to dig deeper into the odd nature of this electoral season and its tragic and controversial outcome. No need comment for now about voter suppression by the GOP.

    Trump naturally will complain, because he has so many skeletons accumulated in his closets. If wrong-doing is discovered, then the emperor must relinquish his tarnished crown.

    Until then, it might be prudent to delay a change in the presidency—maybe this will spur Congress and jurists to contemplate a major restructuring of the entire electoral process. Otherwise, we will have to suffer from further divisive, angry, and chaotic elections—an addiction to which many American thrive on.

    Reply
    1. BDD1951 November 28, 2016

      I told my son a few nights ago that Obama may be president longer than he thinks. Not likely of course but something to think about.

      Reply
      1. AgLander November 28, 2016

        I’ll bet you your bingo winnings against that happening….

        Reply
    2. AgLander November 28, 2016

      Stop whining…we all know you won’t be truly happy until you get your wish and the U.S. falls under Sharia Law!

      Reply
      1. Dan S November 28, 2016

        STFU Agatha while we the people try to ascertain if you damn communists messed with our elections. The last thing we need is a puppet of Putins sitting the Oval Office constantly whining about how SNL makes fun of him or explains why he didn’t win the popular vote. And to think you call opponents of the dumpster whiners is comical

        Reply
    3. AgLander November 28, 2016

      The Congress has no authority “to delay a change in the presidency”…..Are you confusing legal elements of Sharia in your beloved Oman with our U.S. Constitution?

      Reply
  2. maud gonne November 27, 2016

    This is not about Russia hacking it is about Republicans cheating

    Reply
    1. Thoughtopsy November 27, 2016

      It’s unlikely.

      The GOP is not sending us their best people…..

      Reply
      1. maud gonne November 28, 2016

        heh

        Reply
      2. AgLander November 28, 2016

        The DemoRats have no “best people”…..just a bunch of geriatrics intent on holding on to to their fading political power and protecting their social status rankings in the D.C. evening cocktail party crowd. The Republican bench is long and deep in young and upcoming talent which favors them nicely for the next 10-15 years.

        Reply
    2. Carleyrlopez November 28, 2016

      Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !mj78d:
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
      !mj78d:
      ➽➽
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash78MediaTodayGetPay$97Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★::::::!mj78d:….,…..

      Reply
  3. Daniel Jones November 27, 2016

    Dear GOP:

    If you try to interfere with a genuine investigation on possible voter fraud, you will be pilloried as the most heinous of hypocrites…

    You are, of course, but you are not supposed to get caught.

    Reply
  4. Thoughtopsy November 27, 2016

    Hmmm… it’s a bit rude to deny any possibility of rigging the election prior to… then explain how easy it is to rig a state ballot after the fact, as a justification for a recount.

    We’re the Party of Facts, people. It’s the major thing that separates us from the Party of Stupid.

    Either the voting system is vulnerable or it’s not. There’s no flip flop possible.

    At the same time…. Russia is a state actor, and I don’t think anyone was actually expecting them to TRY to rig America’s election. They do have the expertise and manpower for a complex and sophisticated operation, and they confirmed right after the election that they had been in contact with the Trump campaign throughout. (Despite Trump lying repeatedly that they hadn’t)

    I don’t expect the recount to change the end result, but it’s probably worth doing. If only to increase trust in the system, and to accurately define the scope of Russia’s involvement, if any. (Which would stick a pin in the Trump/Putin Bromance)

    But shame on our side for falsely promoting the line that it can’t be rigged prior to the election. Obviously the whole system needs a upgrade.

    On the other side of the coin, I expect to hear exactly NOTHING from the Cheeto-in-Chief or his Trumptards on this recount effort.

    Why?
    Because you were all screaming it was going to be rigged before F**kface Von Clownstick accidentally won… and if he’d lost you would have been frothing at the mouth for recounts to “prove the election was rigged”. So STFU.
    If the funds are there then double-checking is reasonable.

    Note: The only people who loudly and strenuously fight any double-checking the results of an election are the people who rigged it, and the people who fear it was rigged on their behalf. Neither want checks because it might reveal the lie.
    So back off.

    Falsely claiming the election couldn’t be rigged is on us. Mea culpa.
    …Allowing a lying, corrupt, unethical narcissistic con-man into the White House is on You.

    Reply
  5. AgLander November 28, 2016

    On November 9, 2016, The Democrat party and its supporters commenced a gigantic environmental disaster that continues unabated as they send tens of millions of smelly, soiled adult diapers to landfills. When will they stop crapping in their pants and safe the Earth from their anthropologic contamination? Asking them to grow up is a bit too much….they are a basket of deplorables and irredeemables, but can’t they stop spreading their fecal matter and urine all over the place?

    Reply
    1. Dan S November 28, 2016

      Listen you Russian Troll who has a gender identity crisis. Unlike you there’s a lot of Americans who still love this country & loathe the idea that you damn communists may have interfered in the US elections leaving us stuck with an idiot for President. You very well know that violence & harassment has increased exponentially in this country. What happens when Putin can’t control his puppet ? 1 bad hair day & Trump can launch a nuclear holocaust against your motherland or any other nation that he’s mad at. Thank you for giving us Americas first & hopefully last fascist dictator

      Reply
      1. AgLander November 28, 2016

        Interesting response coming from someone who was a crotch sniffer of Barack Obama and never said a word of concern for 8 years as we all watched with alarm as Obama trembled in fear every time he was in the same room with Putin and was used like a sock puppet by Putin over and over, much to Putin’s amusement. Step aside, cupcake, and watch because an alpha male will now replace the sock puppet in that relationship.

        Reply
        1. johninPCFL November 29, 2016

          It’s even better now that Putin has Agent Orange moving into the WH. Just imagine how much easier it’ll be for Putin to run things.

          Reply
    2. johninPCFL November 28, 2016

      Trump on 11/8: “The election is totally rigged.”

      Russia hacks election machines.

      Trump on 11/9: “Hey I won, now F**K OFF.”

      Coincidence that Trump maintains close relations with Putin?

      Reply
      1. AgLander November 28, 2016

        What’s your favorite brand, “Depends”? Have you had problems with butt rash since Nov. 9th when you and your fellow crybabies started wetting your pants every day?

        Reply
        1. johninPCFL November 28, 2016

          Yet more totally moronic oral diarrhea from Trump’s Russian apologist.

          Reply
          1. AgLander November 28, 2016

            Run…….Trump’s coming to get you…………………….BOO!!!

            Reply
          2. johninPCFL November 29, 2016

            Annnnnd another worthless comment from Agent Orange’s favorite turd.

            Reply
      2. BDD1951 November 28, 2016

        I don’t think so.

        Reply
  6. FT66 November 28, 2016

    We can verify the election by doing the recount. It feels good to both sides.Isn’t Mr.Trump?

    Reply
  7. dpaano November 28, 2016

    I think Trump’s problem with the recount is that he’s afraid that it’s going to show the lengths to which he and his cohorts went to “win” the presidency. He may be afraid also that once the votes are recounted, he may be out on his keister along with his buddies! If he wasn’t so afraid of these things, he’d shut up and let them recount! Methinks he protesteth too much!

    Reply
  8. Jon November 28, 2016

    Trump needs to stop his childish whining, lying and shut up. If he’s so sure that the only hacking was done by a 400 pound person lying on their bed in a basement, he has nothing to fear but fear itself. It looks like he must fear more than fear itself. What a poor excuse for a man. A total LOSER!

    Reply

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