Vladimir Putin insists that Russia had nothing to do with the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails and documents in July, though he says it's a good thing that the information is now public. In an interview with Bloomberg this week, the Russian president said it may be impossible to know who was behind the hack, which exposed more than 19,000 emails from leading DNC figures, and he refuted allegations that the Kremlin was trying to influence the US election.
"Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?’" Putin told Bloomberg. "The important thing is the content that was given to the public."
US intelligence officials believe that the attack was carried out by hackers working for the Russian government. WikiLeaks published the emails, along with personal information about Democratic Party donors, ahead of the Democratic National Convention. The emails appeared to show that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over her primary rival, Bernie Sanders, and led to the resignation of committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and three other top officials.
"I don’t know anything about it."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has spoken favorably of Putin, said in July that the hack was "probably not" carried out by Russia, though he was enthusiastic about the prospect. In an extraordinary press conference, Trump invited Russia to launch further cyberattacks, adding that the country would be "rewarded mightily by our press" if it uncovered around 30,000 emails that Clinton deleted from the private server she used as secretary of state.
The incident has fueled speculation that Russia is trying to meddle with the upcoming election in the US. In 2011, when Clinton was secretary of state, Putin accused her of fueling a major opposition movement by sending a "signal" to Russian activist groups. Relations between Russia and the US have remained frosty during the Obama administration, with the two countries clashing over the annexation of Crimea and their respective military interventions in Syria.
Speaking to Bloomberg ahead of a G20 meeting in China, Putin reiterated that Russia had nothing to do with the DNC hack, describing allegations to the contrary as a distraction.
"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," Putin said in the interview, which was published on Friday. "But I want to tell you again, I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this."
He also said that Russia would not interfere with American elections because it doesn't have the necessary expertise in US politics. "To do that you need to have a finger on the pulse and get the specifics of the domestic political life of the US," Putin said. "I'm not sure that even our Foreign Ministry experts are sensitive enough."
President Barack Obama, who will also attend the G20 meeting, told reporters on Tuesday that if Russia was involved in the DNC hack he would discuss it with Putin, though he said it would not "wildly" alter relations between the two countries.