Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House, by Donna Brazile (Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2017, New York, NY, 268 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
January 5, 2017 (San Diego) - Donna Brazile, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman has written a provocative and timely book about election politics and alleged Russian influence in our political process; Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.
The author is currently a Joan Shorenstein fellow at The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Twice serving as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, Brazile is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a contributor to ABC News. A graduate of Louisiana State University, Brazile worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, when she served as Al Gore’s campaign manager. In 2014, Brazile was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the board of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She lives in Washington, DC.
Brazile’s explosive book is the first insider account of the Russian hacking of the DNC and the missteps by the Clinton campaign and Obama administration that enabled Donald Trump’s victory.
When it seemed as if Hillary Clinton’s ascendancy to the presidency was a foregone conclusion, Brazile wrote the following profound statement in Hacks: “Expressing any doubt about her victory would not be polite, or even warranted. We had given our all to this election that had troubled and terrified us in a way no election ever had before. God willing, the next evening we would be celebrating with the whole world at the Javits Center. I needed to adopt the enthusiasm of my companions on the train ride. We were going to make history!”
Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci, gives a ringing endorsement of this book, by stating: “With brutal honesty, enchanting self-awareness, and a wonderful storyteller’s voice. Donna Brazile recounts the fascinating inside story of the 2016 campaign and what it was like being hacked. It is a deeply emotional story, but she tells it with great humor and insight. Her book is filled with urgent history and vital lessons for living in this age of cyber warfare and political discontent. This book is a triumph.”
Some of the revelations in Hacks are as follows:
INSIDER ACCOUNT OF THE HACKING/EXISTENCE OF “HACKER HOUSE”: In Hacks Brazile will reveal never-before-reported details about the Russian hacking of the DNC: the botched response by the DNC and its IT contractor, the initial failure to inform and protect data of donors, and the devastating toll the hacking took on the DNC staff. As the cyber intrusions into the DNC continued through the fall of 2016, Donna recruited an elite team of Silicon Valley anti-hackers to defend the DNC systems from constant Russian cyber intrusions. The Hacker House team found the Russians inside the DNC voter data file and, just days before the election, the DNC leadership debated whether or not to take the system offline. The existence of this team and their epic battles against the Russians will be revealed for the first time in Hacks;
HILLARY’S HEALTH AND THE REPLACEMENT: Never was the pressure to replace Hillary Clinton on top of the ticket greater than in the hours after Clinton’s stunning collapse at the 9/11 memorial in New York and subsequent health rumors. Donna will walk readers through that harrowing day, and reveal how – in the midst of some serious soul-searching – she came up with an alternative ticket in the event Clinton could not continue. In the end, the plan was not acted on – but it remains a tantalizing “what if”;
BERNIE WASN’T WRONG/DNC FINANCIAL SHENANIGANS: Sanders’ camp was correct that the DNC was indebted to the Clinton campaign. Donna will reveal how, months before the Democratic Convention, “Brooklyn” had – as Donna discovered – effectively assumed control of the DNC, bailed it out, and put it on an allowance, neutering it for the duration of the campaign;
THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN DEBACLE, ITS MISTREATMENT OF DONNA AND THE DNC STAFF, AND THE CULT OF ROBBY: Donna will take readers inside the tumultuous and insular Clinton campaign. Despite the obvious lessons of 2008, Hillary refused to take stock of why Obama had beaten her the first time and why she might lose again. With so many rotating inner circles, it was hard to know at any given moment who commanded the ear of Clinton, but the person who didn’t deserve it was Robby Mook. A nice guy, Mook was too focused on data and models to appreciate the energy that drives a successful campaign. Despite her decades of experience, Mook and the Clinton campaign’s Brooklyn brass belittled Donna’s insight into what was actually happening on the ground. The campaign sent minders to watch over Donna and the DNC’s Washington office. Their treatment of Donna came to a head in several confrontations – on one conference call with Brooklyn Donna declares she is “not Patsey the slave”;
In further regard to the aforementioned “Patsey the slave” remark made by Brazile, she states in Hacks: “All I want you to do is to treat me with some respect.” I said, my voice rising. “I’m not Debbie, I’m not Hannah, and I’m not Patsey the slave.” There was no response to that name. I didn’t believe that these nice liberals, Brazile speaking sarcastically of Clinton’s brain trust, would have missed seeing the film 12 Years a Slave, in which Solomon Northrup’s friend Patsey was played so well by Lupita Nyong’o, who won the Oscar for the role.
“Patsey the slave!” I said. “Y’all keep whipping me and whipping me and you never give me any money or any way to do my damn job. I am not going to be your whipping girl! From this time on, we’re keeping the money we raise, is that clear? Patsey is keeping her money!” This says a lot about the Clinton campaign, as well as the Democratic party, and why and how they have taken blacks for granted over the years, as well as how and why Hillary Clinton lost the presidency to Donald Trump.
THE CNN FIASCO: Donna provides the real story of her departure from CNN and her alleged leaking of questions to the Clinton campaign before a CNN Democratic candidate forum;
THE SPOOK: Donna, new to cyber-crime, developed a source with deep connections inside this hidden world – a man she took to calling her “Spook.” Their late night phone calls became a Rosetta Stone for Donna, who knew about ongoing Russian activity and objectives from this shadowy figure, her own Deep Throat;
INSIDE ELECTION DAY DENIAL: Donna will take readers inside Election Day 2016. Donna stayed in the Clinton camp’s Boiler Room all day watching as numerous reports came in revealing problems. As signs of Clinton’s impending loss continued to pour in from the field, Team Clinton was still believing their own data and was focused on guessing who would occupy various positions inside the new administration or lead the presidential inaugural committee;
THE ESCALATING TERROR: The hacking took a toll on the party, and on Donna, whose life was under constant threat as soon as Donald Trump started featuring her in his stump speech. She had to have a security system installed in her home after a suspicious package was left on her porch. The DC police routinely surveyed her home and neighborhood. She discovered the DNC office might have been bugged, and, shortly before the election, the DNC asked her if the party had an alternative headquarters to operate from in case there was a disruption on Election Day. The FBI wanted to know if Donna had a designee in the event something happened to her;
GOP DENIAL: Donna repeatedly tried to include RNC leadership in the DNC’s briefings with DHS and the FBI about the hacking, but they always refused, even when Donna confronted Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus in person.
Emanating from the revelations made by Brazile in her book Hacks, is the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating allegations of collusion between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and the Russians, obstruction of justice in the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Trump, indictments of former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort and his assistant Gates, guilty pleas by former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, and George Papadopoulos, for Papodopoulos’ lying to the FBI in a January 17, 2017 interview – in which agents with the FBI asked a series of questions that pertained to the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election; and whether there was any coordination between the campaign of candidate Donald Trump and Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election. Read Papadopoulos guilty plea agreement here.
It is perhaps interesting to note that the aforementioned George Papadopoulos is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, the alma mater of many politicians and former mayors in Chicago, as well as this writer receiving a Certificate in Purchasing Management from DePaul in 2001. As a matter of fact, I once lived in the same general “Ravenswood” area in Chicago that Papadopoulos currently lives in.
In July 2016, in the wake of the Russian hacking of the DNC – as Debbie Wasserman Schultz abruptly resigned as DNC chair and with chaos threatening to consume the party’s nomination convention – Democrats turned to a familiar figure to right the ship: Donna Brazile. Known to millions from her frequent TV appearances, Brazile was no stranger to high stakes and dirty opponents. What Brazile discovered at the DNC, however, was unlike anything she had experienced before – and much worse than is commonly known. The party was beset by infighting, scandal, and hubris, while reeling from a brazen and wholly unprecedented attempt by a foreign power to influence a presidential election. Plus, its candidate, Hillary Clinton, faced an opponent who broke every rule in the political playbook.
This book says it all about our country’s current state of affairs, a book that I highly recommend. The attached "Russian Hacking Report" by the FBI puts into perspective Brazile's book. Click here.
After writing this review the Democratic National Committee filed a federal lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump for President campaign, Wikileaks and Russia. The author wrote an opinion piece supporting the lawsuit in USA Today. Read lawsuit here.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and he is the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine. He is the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago”. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.