Why you should care

Because it might just be a direct attack on democracy.

Hillary Clinton warned Saturday that Vladimir Putin will continue to attack American elections, specifically suggesting the Russian president could wreak havoc on vote counts in the November midterms.

“There are some tech experts in Silicon Valley whom I have met who say that maybe what they will do this time is really disrupt the actual election,” Clinton said onstage at OZY Fest. “Shut down the servers you send results to, interfere with the operations of voting machines because too many of them are linked to the internet. We are still very vulnerable.”

It was one of many concerns about Russian interference the former secretary of state voiced during a wide-ranging interview with Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs, an OZY investor. She criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to meet privately with Putin earlier this week in Helsinki. “You particularly need a note taker so there can be no mistake about what was said. What’s happening now is that Putin is telling the world what was decided,” Clinton said. “And we are hearing crickets from the White House.”

Look, Putin is a very aggressive guy: He pushes, he pushes.

Hillary Clinton

Going back to the summer of 2016, when there were “hints” of interference, as Clinton put it, she said officials had “tried to say enough without causing panic.” But she said the picture became clearer in January of 2017 when the intelligence community briefed the president-elect on electioneering efforts. Experts knew that Russia stole emails through spear-phishing; a number of election systems in states were compromised; they stole information about voters from a number of states; and that they stole data and analytics from the Democratic National Committee. She spoke of the Russian agent nicknamed Guccifer 2.0, and how at least one congressional candidate reached out to him. “This was a very wrong, and unfortunately successful, cyberattack on our electoral system,” Clinton said.

What’s worse, findings from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who announced 12 more indictments of Russian agents on July 13, showed that Russians were looking into how to hack key American infrastructure, from the power grid to nuclear energy plants.

Clinton worried that by refusing to criticize Russian electioneering, other nations such as China, Iran and North Korea would be emboldened in their own tactics. “If any one of them gets away with the attack Russia did, it only empowers them and gives them more reasons to keep probing, damaging and destroying certain institutions,” she said. “The great mystery is why the president hasn’t spoken out in defense of our country.”

The biggest example was this week’s Helsinki meeting, in which Trump suggested he trusted Putin over his own intelligence agencies (he later claimed to have misspoken). The incident, which she called “deeply disturbing,” spurred Clinton to consider her own experiences dealing with the Russian president. “Look, Putin is a very aggressive guy: he pushes, he pushes.” His ultimate goal? To dominate his neighborhood again, she said, as well as build a foothold in the Middle East and break up Western partnerships, from NATO to the European Union, and to “undo the architecture of the post–World War II world.” On the domestic front, she warned of his aim to “have us not trust each other anymore,” an effort she acknowledged has been tremendously successful.

The 2016 presidential candidate also criticized Trump policies that led to the separation of some immigrant families. She recalled babysitting young migrant children for her church growing up and asked attendees who worked for airlines to direct message her over Twitter so they could get flight vouchers and discounts to reunite parents with their kids. And she called for the Senate to hold off voting on Trump’s recent Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, until all of the potentially millions of documents from his White House tenure could be released for consideration — an action Republicans are unlikely to take because it could delay his nomination until after the November elections. “It has to be a voting issue, and I hope it’s becoming one,” she says.

Her takeaway for the thousands gathered at the summer music and thought festival in New York’s Central Park? “I keep mentioning this election in November, because for people who care about any of these issues, it really is the most important act you can take,” Clinton said. “I hope everyone here is registered to vote, and I hope that you will vote in November.”

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