- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A trove of 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails was leaked last week – and experts are speculating that Russian hackers are responsible.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has suggested that Russia leaked the emails to help elect Trump, who has a history of making positive comments about the country and Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Trump encouraged any Russians listening to his press conference on Wednesday to find the emails Clinton deleted from her private server.
If Russia really is trying to skew the presidential election, such interference would be bizarre – but not entirely unprecedented.
In fact, there’s a significant history of other countries meddling in American politics to further their own interests.
Here’s a look at four times it’s happened:
Great Britain, 1940-1941
In 1940 and 1941, Great Britain was suffering through World War II, and it badly needed American help.
According to historian Tim Naftali, the country used its intelligence services to help President Franklin Roosevelt push for American intervention.
British spies spread negative rumors about aviator Charles Lindbergh, the leader of the isolationist “America First” movement. They tapped into the embassies of enemy nations in Washington to pass information to Roosevelt. They even gave money to interventionist groups – all with the approval of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
If Russia is interfering in the contest between Trump and Clinton, it wouldn’t be the first time another country has played a role in tipping the outcome of a presidential election.
On the eve of the 1968 election, Richard Nixon’s campaign colluded with the South Vietnam government to delay peace in the Vietnam War.
As the election approached, Nixon aides feared President Lyndon Johnson would try to help the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, by making progress in peace talks with Vietnam – and days before balloting, Johnson said he would call for a halt in bombing.
So, according to now declassified documents, Republican activist Anna Chennault reached out to Saigon with an offer of better peace terms from a Nixon presidency. The Vietnamese then delayed negotiations and prolonged the war, helping Nixon win the election.
The Soviet Union, throughout the Cold War
The Soviet Union made multiple attempts to influence American politics throughout the Cold War, according to “The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB,” a book by Christopher Andrew that delves into KGB archives.
The archives show that the KGB promoted false John F. Kennedy assassination theories, forged a letter to incriminate American intelligence officer E. Howard Hunt in the assassination, and spread rumors that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was gay.
The KGB also tried to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. and stoked racial tensions by mailing false letters from the Ku Klux Klan. It even disseminated a false story that the AIDS virus was manufactured by the US government.
- Thomson Reuters
Just last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to leverage American partisan disagreement on Iran’s nuclear development to ensure tougher sanctions for Iran.
As the US and Iran neared agreement on a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program, John Boehner, who was Speaker of the House at the time, invited Netanyahu – who had spent years in disagreement with President Barack Obama over the issue – to visit the US.
Netanyahu then gave a speech to Congress attacking Obama’s approach to nuclear activities in Iran and calling for tougher sanctions, without informing the White House of his plans.