You may have been laughing when Donald Trump responded to word of possible Russian involvement in DNC hacks by joking that the country should hack Hillary Clinton’s email server, but some House Democrats are taking it very seriously. Representatives John Conyers, Elijah Cummings, Eliot Engel and Bennie Thompson have sent a letter asking the FBI to investigate the possibility of a link between Trump officials and the attacks. They claim it’s vital to know whether or not Trump and his staff “directly caused or indirectly motivated” the hacks — they could be helping Russia interfere with the election, if you believe the letter.
There’s no smoking gun here. Instead, the Democrats are trying to raise eyebrows by referencing both the pro-Russia talk of Trump’s campaign as well as his aides’ connections to Russian officials and agendas. Trump’s own “hack Clinton” remark, willingness to cozy up to Vladimir Putin and Russia-friendly policies (such as weakening NATO and recognizing the Crimea annexation) are front and center, of course. The letter also references former campaign chair Paul Manafort’s role in helping a pro-Russian party gain power in Ukraine, and questions foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s involvement in big deals with Gazprom (Russia’s state-backed energy giant), among other links.
Whatever you think about the legitimacy of the concerns, there’s no guarantee that anything will come out of this. Much like the Republican-led Senate committee on Facebook news filtering, this is as much a political dog and pony show as anything else. It’s ultimately casting doubt on Trump’s viability as a presidential candidate. While the letter could lead somewhere (the FBI hasn’t responded so far), any honest-to-goodness investigation would just be icing on the cake.