Journalist defends 2016 reporting that used Russian-hacked documents

Politico Senior Writer Marc Caputo says the decision to use excerpts from Russian-hacked documents during the 2016 election was justified because the information was true and newsworthy.

Politico's Marc Caputo on hacked documents
Politico's Marc Caputo on hacked documents 02:10

In November, 60 Minutes traveled to Florida to report on Russia's hack of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the impact it had on one of the state's congressional races in 2016.

In 2016, Politico Senior Writer Marc Caputo was tipped off by a Republican operative to a cache of hacked DCCC documents, stolen by Russian GRU agents and published on a blog under the now-infamous moniker Guccifer 2.0. Among those documents, which were never intended to be seen by the public, were compromising dossiers that included the scandals, indiscretions and political vulnerabilities of the Democratic Party's own candidates in Florida races. 

Even though Russian intelligence was suspected to be behind the hack, many in the mainstream media used the stolen material. Politico's Caputo used excerpts from the dossiers in one report, published just a few months before the vote, titled, "Hacked DCCC docs dish on strategy and scandal for Florida congressional candidates."

In an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker, Caputo says the source of the information was "right at the edge of being unusable," but that he and his editors ultimately decided to publish. "This tells voters 'Here's what the Democratic Party actually thinks about Democratic candidates, despite what the Democratic Party says,'" he said. "And we think ultimately that if the information is true, voters have a right to that information."

Asked by Whitaker if it felt unfair to publish information that only damaged one side of the political spectrum, Caputo said, "Well, life is unfair. And politics is unfair. My job is not to sit there and decide, 'this is fair, and this is not.' My job is to cover the news. And wherever the news leads, we follow." He says their standards are, "It has to be true. And it has to be newsworthy."

Whitaker asked Caputo if this could happen again, perhaps in 2020. "Oh, yes. It certainly could happen again," Caputo responded.

The video above was originally published on November 26, 2019, and produced by Graham Messick and Jack Weingart. It was edited by Will Croxton.