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Suspected Russian hackers target France after Trump takes little action on U.S. hack

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Suspected Russian hackers target France after Trump takes little action on U.S. hack

Hackers leaked internal documents from the Macron campaign just before the candidates entered a pre-election media blackout.

French independent centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron shakes hands to supporters as he campaigns in Rodez, southern France, Friday, May 5, 2017. The 39-year-old independent candidate faces far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s presidential runoff. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

In France, suspected Russia-backed hackers have reportedly infiltrated the campaign of Emmanuel Macron, the moderate presidential candidate facing a tight runoff against the far-right Marine Le Pen. The attack released what appear to be campaign documents, including staffers’ personal emails, campaign-related correspondence, and other potentially sensitive records.

Voting starts Sunday in France, and campaigns are now under a gag order against campaigning and other official communications—a brief pre-election media detente routinely observed in France’s elections.

Macron’s campaign put out a statement moments before the gag order went into effect that compared the attack to last year’s Russian interference in the U.S. election, which saw President Donald Trump elected.

The campaign claims the hackers placed false information and documents in with authentic ones to sow confusion and that they obtained the weeks earlier then released it to coincide with the pre-vote media blackout.

The same Russian hackers who targeted the Clinton campaign have been probing the Macron campaign for some time, according to cybersecurity experts. Le Pen’s campaign also claimed it faced routine probes by malicious hackers, but they appear not to have released any documents from that camp.

France’s National Commission for Control of the Electoral Campaign has requested media outlets not report on the hack, citing French law that prohibits the spread of false information. The Macron campaign echoed that call, noting the attack’s ultimate goal was to undermine confidence in France’s electoral process.

Polls have favored Macron, but Le Pen could surge if unenthusiastic — or skeptical — French don’t turn out to vote.

Trump’s silence makes the U.S. complicit in attack

The Trump administration is complicit in creating an environment that, at best, did nothing to discourage Russian actors from meddling in democratic elections to sway outcomes in their favor. At worst, the administration’s obstinate inaction actively encouraged misbehavior and made the U.S. government complicit in a hack targeting its own ally’s election.

Much like Trump, Le Pen has enjoyed favorable coverage by Russian state media, including praise and a thinly-veiled endorsement from Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. France’s far-right National Front party—from which Le Pen resigned just after the recent first round of elections—received financial support from a Russian bank in 2014.

So far, efforts to investigate Russia’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election have devolved into partisan bickering or outright obstructionism by Republicans. Several members of Trump’s administration have recused themselves from the investigation—or resigned from office altogether—after reports surfaced of their own Russian government contacts.

Meanwhile, as the Trump administration quarrels over the optics of how to handle Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election, hackers apparently feel no trepidation directly undermining other liberal democracies.

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