- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally denied his government played any part in the recent U.S. Democratic National Committee hack during an interview published Friday, while dismissing what he described as attempts to distract the public from the information contained in the thousands of DNC emails that were subsequently leaked online.

Mr. Putin rejected the claims while fielding questions Thursday during an interview with Bloomberg that has since been published on the Kremlin’s official website.

“Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?” Mr. Putin asked of the DNC breach. “The important thing is the content that was given to the public.”

“There’s no need to distract the public’s attention from the essence of the problem by raising some minor issues connected with the search for who did it,” Russia’s president added. “But I want to tell you again, I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level, Russia has never done this.”

Federal investigators in the U.S. haven’t formally named the culprit responsible for the DNC hack, but cybersecurity experts and lawmakers alike have largely blamed Russia since that breach was first publicly revealed in July. Antisecrecy website WikiLeaks soon after published internal correspondence pilfered in the hack, and discussions contained therein have been attributed with the subsequent ousting of the party’s former chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Other organizations and individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party have routinely been targeted with cyberattacks in the interim, and the FBI has determined with “high confidence” that those are being waged as part of an operation conducted on behalf of the Russian government, Bloomberg reported last month citing an anonymous source.

Amid this series of security incidents, the Senate’s top-ranking Democrat wrote a letter to FBI Director James B. Comey this week urging him to fully investigate the hacks along with any possible links to the Kremlin.

“The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War, and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly and in a timely fashion,” Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, wrote Monday.

Mr. Comey said Tuesday that the prospect of hackers interfering with an U.S. election is “something we take very, very seriously, and we work very hard to understand so that we can equip the rest of our government for options on how to deal with it.”

Mr. Putin said Russia would face an uphill battle if it wanted to sabotage the American election process with a campaign of hacks and leaks.

“To do that, you need to have a finger on the pulse and get the specifics of the domestic political life of the U.S.,” he told Bloomberg. “I’m not sure that even our Foreign Ministry experts are sensitive enough.”

“We will carefully watch what happens and wait for the election results. Then we are ready to work with any American administration, if they want to themselves,” Mr. Putin added.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, indicated earlier this week that she’d be willing to deploy the U.S. military to respond to the DNC breach if president. Speaking in Cincinnati on Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton explicitly blamed Russia with hacking the DNC and outlined a plan for countering any future hacks if she ends up in the White House.

“I will make it clear, that the United States will treat cyberattacks just like any other attack,” Mrs. Clinton said Wednesday. “We will be ready with serious political, economic and military responses. And we’re going to invest in protecting our governmental networks and our national infrastructure. I want us to lead the world in setting the rules of cyberspace.”

“If America doesn’t, others will,” she said.

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