by Jay Johansen | Dec 14, 2016
I'm writing this following Trump's surprise victory in his presidential campaign. The CIA has produced a secret report that concludes that Russia was behind the hacking of Democrat emails during the recent election campaign, and that their goal was to assist Trump. And by "secret", we mean that they sent copies to the Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC News, and CNN.
The evidence for this appears to be:
(a) Anonymous sources. We can't tell you who said it or exactly what they said. So you can't evaluate their credentials or cross-examine them. But trust us, they are reliable people and you just have to believe our paraphrase of what we claim they said.
(b) But there is some solid forensic evidence: Some of the software used in the hack attempt may have been the same software used to hack German government servers a couple of years ago, and in that case the Germans speculated, with no real evidence, that the Russians might have been behind it. So the Russians might have been behind the German case, there might be similarities between the two cases, and this might imply the same people were involved.
Who could question that kind of solid evidence? What are you, some kind of anti-science religious extremists?
Why would the Russians prefer Trump? The Huffington Post reported that Trump praised Russian president Vladimir Putin during the campaign. They breathlessly report, "He even called Putin a 'more effective leader' than President Barack Obama." (Huffington Post, Dec 9, 2016) That's hardly effusive praise, about like telling a girl that she's prettier than the Incredible Hulk. And HuffPo points out that in response to earlier speculation that Russia was behind the hacking, Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing" (referring to the thousands of emails that Clinton deleted from her unauthorized server before handing it over to the FBI). They describe this as a "request for a foreign government to breach U.S. internet security". They skim over the fact that he said this at a press conference in Florida. It was obviously a joke. If he was really hatching a secret plot to conspire with a foreign government to subvert a U.S. election, would he have announced it at a press conference?
It's not at all clear that Russia will be better off with a Trump administration than they would have been with a Clinton administration. When Clinton was Secretary of State, she was no great thorn in Russia's side. Trump's "America first" philosophy would seem more likely to collide with Russian goals than the Obama/Clinton "citizen of the world"/"lead from behind" approach. If I was Putin, I would have been rooting for Clinton.
But let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that the liberal position on this is 100% correct: (a) the Russians really were behind the hacking, and (b) their goal was to help Trump.
Let's be clear on the background. During the campaign, somebody hacked into the Democrat's email server and published a number of embarassing emails: the Democrat National Committee subverted their own primary process to sabotague Sanders, the Democrats paid people to start fights at Trump rallies, not to mention weird stuff, like a top Clinton advisor was involved in an event to promote a book about cooking with menstrual blood, semen, and breast milk. The Democrats have made no claim that these emails are forgeries, so I think we can safely conclude they're genuine.
So, point 1, the Democrats' position here is that they have a fundamental right to lie to the American people during an election campaign, and someone revealing the truth is a corruption of the political process. If the Democrat Party engages in dirty politics, maybe even breaks the law (hiring thugs to start fights would seem to violate numerous laws), the problem is not that a major political party engaged in nefarious behavior, but that the American people had no right to know about it. If the voters learn the truth about Democrats, it calls the validity of the election into question.
CNN published a story with the headline, "Ex-CIA operative: We may need a new vote". (CNN, Dec 10, 2016) I've heard similar statements from other liberals.
I'm sorry to say, Democrats, but there is no provision in the Constitution that says that an election is invalidated and a new vote must be taken if foreigners do anything that might influence the results.
Think about that for two seconds. The U.S. is a big and powerful country. Lots of foreigners care who wins a U.S. election. In this case, the complaint is that foreigners may have been involved in publishing information that hurt one candidate. Tell me when the last U.S. election was where that didn't happen. Do we expect foreigners to refrain from reporting on U.S. elections? Do we expect foreigners to scrupulously hide their feelings about whom they would prefer to win? Indeed, lots of things published in the foreign press might "affect" a U.S. election. A news story about immigrants in Germany, that makes absolutely no mention of the U.S., might lead Americans to think, "yes, similar things could happen here", whether those things are good or bad. A story about a terrorist attack in France could lead Americans to think, "we need a leader with an effective plan to fight terrorism". Etc. We can hardly expect foreigners to shut down all their media and refrain from discussing international affairs with Americans for the duration of a U.S. election campaign.
And by the way, the U.S. often expresses a preference for the outcome of foreign elections. In early 2015, Obama set a representative to Israel to set up an office, called "Victory 13", to campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu. (Jerusalem Post, Feb 3, 2015)
The latest variation on this theme seems to be that if Russia supported Trump, then Trump is "Putin's puppet", and once he takes office, the U.S. will cease to be an independent country and become a Russian client state. According to Keith Olbermann, "We are no longer a sovereign nation, we are no longer a democracy, we are no longer a free people — we are the victims of a bloodless coup." (Raw Story, Dec 13, 2016)
But even if Russia published information that helped Trump, it's a long way from "they helped him" to "he is their slave forever". There is zero evidence that Russia was behind the emails, but even if true, there is zero evidence that they planned the whole thing with Trump and that he promised them ... anything ... in return.
By the way, remember when Obama announced a "reset" with Russia, a new era of more friendly relations? The White House put out a press release bragging about it. (U.S.-Russia Relations: "Reset" Fact Sheet, June 24, 2010) Why was being friends with Russia a good thing when Obama did it, but a horrifying evil thing when Trump does it?
Even if the Russians really were behind the email hack -- which may or may not be true, it's possible that no one outside of Wikileaks and the Kremlin know. It's not like these allegations are new: the Democrats were making the same claim all through the campaign. If Americans were concerned about a "Russian connection", they had ample time to consider it before voting.
Tammy Dec 14, 2016
Mr. Jay, when I asked you a couple weeks ago about the democrats stealing the election from Trump on the recount you said that could not happen. Well, how about now with the electoral college vote wanting a report on the investigation of on the hacking and how much involvement took place on the Russians part. They are saying if the report is right the electoral college votes could change and Trump could no longer become our President. Are you say that the Dems are so sneaky they are trying to overthrow this new government(Trump,drain the swamp) before it even has a chance to be put in place?
Jay Johansen Dec 31, 2016
Sorry I procrastinated on replying. But this way I was able to wait and see what really happened before making predictions!
For the Democrats plan to get the Electoral College to change its vote, they would have had to convince 38 Republican electors to switch their vote to Clinton. An elector is normally a ceremonial job: the term of office is a couple of hours, you cast one vote, and you're done. So it's usually given to dedicated workers that the party wants to reward for their long service. It gives someone a little footnote in history. The chance that 38 dedicated Republican stalwarts were going to switch their vote to a Democrat was nill.
Or plan B, the Democrats were trying to get the Republican electors to vote for a "compromise candidate", i.e. some moderate Republican. But they'd still need to turn 38 votes. And even if they had succeeded, then no one would have a majority and according to the Constitution, the election is decided by the House of Representatives. Which is controlled by the Republicans. The chance that the House Republicans would have voted for a candidate other than their party's nominee was also very remote.
So the whole plan was pretty desperate from the start. If Trump had won by just two or three votes, it could have been at least plausible. But we won by 38 votes. It just wasn't going to happen.