Whether Russia truly did try to influence U.S. presidential elections in November, as President Obama, Hillary Clinton and several high-profile Republicans claim, may never be known.
But, if it did happen, it wouldn’t be the first time the government of one country tried to influence the elections of another, and rarely do these interventions result in sanctions of the type Obama has imposed on Russia.
In fact, Obama himself has been accused of such meddling on at least two occasions involving elections in Israel in 2015 and the U.K’s Brexit vote in June.
On the flip side, Obama’s severe reaction to claims of Russian “hacking” are in stark contrast from his treatment of China, whom he accused last year of being the culprit in a massive hack of a U.S. government database containing personal information on 4 million current and former federal workers. No sanctions there, only a brief verbal reprimand for China.
There is concern that some of the information that was tapped could be used to aid the espionage operations of China, “which quickly emerged as the likely source of the hack,” reported CBS News on June 5, 2015.
But first, let’s look at the Obama administration’s interventions in the internal politics of Israel and Britain.
Sending covert operatives to Israel
According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015.
The Hill was one of the few mainstream publications to report on Obama’s use of taxpayer dollars to influence Israel’s elections, quoting a GOP strategist who said Obama’s role in the Israel elections was “much larger” than reported in the American media.
“What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu,” John McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, said in an interview on John Catsimatidis’s “The Cats Roundtable” radio show in New York.
“There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu,” McLaughlin said.
The effort to boot Netanyahu was spearheaded by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird, according to McLaughlin, and V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. McLaughlin said the Israeli leader rebounded after delivering a speech to Congress, prompting more critical ads.
V15 was viewed as part of a broader campaign to oust Netanyahu. The group was linked to Washington-based nonprofit OneVoice Movement, which reportedly received $350,000 in State Department grants. Money to OneVoice stopped flowing in November 2015, officials said, before the Israeli elections.
McLaughlin also cited an effort “to organize the [Israeli] Arabs into one party and teach them about voter turnout.”
“The State Department people in the end of January, early February, expedited visas for [Israeli] Arab leaders to come to the United States to learn how to vote,” McLaughlin said.
“There were people in the United States that were organizing them to vote in one party so they would help the left-of-center candidate, Herzog, that the Obama administration favored,” he added.
“They were running an ACORN, Obama Organizing for America-type campaign over there with the digital ads, the billboards, the phones. They were targeting Israeli voters,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said on Fox News’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”
Next up: Brexit
While Obama’s assault on the integrity of the Israeli elections was clandestine, he used a more overt strategy in Britain’s Brexit vote, but again it backfired.
Obama traveled to London in April to deliver a speech urging Britons to vote against Brexit, threatening that if they left the E.U. they would be placed “in the back of the queue” for trade deals.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, a staunch opponent of remaining in the EU and allowing unbridled immigration, blasted Obama’s remarks as “paradoxical, inconsistent, and incoherent.”
Apparently, many Brits agreed and were put off by Obama’s comments. They gave Brexit a stunning 52 to 48 percent victory.
While the U.S. media was largely silent on Obama’s failed attempt to influence the Brexit vote, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee at the time, Donald Trump, was not.
“I think it’s something he shouldn’t have done. It’s not his country. It’s not his part of the world. And I actually think that his recommendation perhaps caused it to fail,” Trump said.
Saudi meddling in U.S. politics is legendary
Perhaps the mother of all foreign influence over U.S. elections comes every two years from Saudi Arabia, which has been meddling in the affairs of American politics for decades.
And of course the Hillary Clinton campaign had undeniably strong ties to Saud Arabia, though you would never know it by the amount of press these ties received before and after the election.
The Clinton Foundation received tens of millions of dollars over the years from Saudi Arabia.
Josh Stewart, a spokesman for the Sunlight Foundation, told the Washington Post, “Saudi Arabia is consistently one of the bigger players when it comes to foreign influence in Washington. That spans both what you’d call the inside game, which is lobbying and government relations, and the outside game, which is PR and other things that tend to reach a broader audience than just lobbying.”
The Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court hired the Podesta Group to lobby for them. John Podesta, who chaired Clinton’s presidential campaign, personally lobbies on behalf of the Saudi group, which is an entity of the Saudi government, according to the Religious Freedom Coalition.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has given between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation and Friends of Saudi Arabia contributed somewhere between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation as well.