Russia targeted Democrats in competitive House races, and the GOP played along

A glass wall covered in coding symbols
(Image credit: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

The CIA's case for Russia trying to swing the 2016 presidential race toward Donald Trump reportedly rests partly on Moscow's evident focus on defeating Democrats even though Russian hackers targeted Republican operations, too. There has been a lot of speculation about what effect this Russian meddling had in Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton, but the Kremlin-linked hackers, going by the pseudonym Guccifer 2.0, also pilfered and disseminated internal Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) assessments of House candidates in about a dozen "of the most competitive House races in the country," The New York Times reports.

The airing of internal strategy blueprints and what amount to opposition research files, amplified by political bloggers and GOP campaign groups, was devastating for the candidates targeted in the hack-and-leak operation, even though some of the Democrats narrowly won their races. "This is not a traditional tit-for-tat on a partisan political campaign, where one side hits the other and then you respond," said DCCC executive director Kelly Ward. "This is an attack by a foreign actor that had the intent to disrupt our election, and we were the victims of it."

Guccifer 2.0 also targeted some Democrats in safe seats, like DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who sent his Republican counterpart a letter on Aug. 29 arguing that "the NRCC's use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States' most dangerous adversaries," and if the National Republican Campaign Committee continued using the materials, the GOP "will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a similar note to to House Speaker Paul Ryan. Neither Luján nor Pelosi got a response, and a Ryan-linked super PAC subsequently used the hacked material in an attack ad.

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"Speaker Ryan has said for months that foreign intervention in our elections is unacceptable," said spokeswoman AshLee Strong, adding that Ryan did not control what the super PAC included in its advertising. "Why the Russian government might care about these unglamorous House races is a source of bafflement for some of the lawmakers who were targeted," The Times says, suggesting that perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying "to make American democracy a less attractive model to his own citizens and to Russia's neighbors." You can read more at The New York Times.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.