Now that U.S. authorities are confident Russian intelligence agencies are behind the hack of Democratic Party emails, political operatives and cybersecurity experts tell NBC News they are bracing for an "October Surprise" -- a release of even more potentially damaging information timed to influence the outcome of the presidential election and the course of the next administration.
The big question isn't whether more information will be disclosed, they say, but how destructive it might be to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and to broader U.S. foreign policy efforts.
Democratic Party and Clinton campaign officials are now doing an urgent "damage assessment" to determine what kind of information might have been stolen and the impact its release might have on a tight presidential race.
"That is a nightmare scenario, and let's hope we don't see that as an October Surprise -- emails from Hillary Clinton's server that have either been in the press or worse, the classified ones that no one in the public has seen," said retired Adm. James Stavridis, who as the former Supreme Allied Commander for NATO is familiar with Russian information operations.
Admiral Stavridis, you may recall, was a finalist -- maybe more like semifinalist -- in the Clinton veepstakes. Talk about bitter.
The cybersecurity firm hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hacks says that two Russian security agencies had been accessing DNC servers and internal files for months, with at least one of them infiltrating the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other key U.S. agencies.
Russian hackers also accessed the private email accounts of some Clinton campaign staffers, and attacked and may have accessed internal files and email servers of the Clinton Foundation. Security officials also believe hackers accessed the private server Clinton used while Secretary of State.
Isn't it a shame that these damaging reports are just coming out now, after she's been freshly nominated. Oh wait ... FBI Director Comey said she didn't intend to do anything wrong. Damn that pesky mens rea. I suppose this Donald Trump joke -- you may interpret that phrase both ways -- shouldn't be taken too seriously.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing," Trump said at a press conference. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let's see if that happens. That'll be nice."
Oh wait; it already is.
"This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent," senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. "That's not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."
Maybe the DNI could stop giving Il Douche daily foreign policy briefings. You know, before he mishandles classified information. Or Clinton's team has a collective stroke. Or something.
Honestly, I expected the general election campaign to approach unprecedented levels of absurdity, just not before the kids went back to school. One thing is certain: the media talking shitheads won't be able to say that 'nobody pays attention to the election until Labor Day'.
But doesn't it seem a little early for Democrats to be gripped with panic?