Every day the lead story on the news is something about the alleged Russian hacking of the “electoral system,” fake news dissemination, and Russian influence on the outcome of the election in 2016. On Meet the Press yesterday, John Podesta was doing his best Jill Stein imitation calling for an independent investigation of Russian influence on the election’s outcome. There was the obligatory, “We in the campaign did some things wrong, but…” comments. Be wary of what comes after the word “but” because it usually negates everything before that word.
So let’s follow this whole thing logically. First, when the intelligence community recently stated that Russia was behind certain instances of hacking and influence on the election, these “conclusions” were not based on any new evidence. Only the analysis changed. But if this were a court of law, Russia could not be convicted on circumstantial evidence which is all that exists. Podesta stated it bluntly: On October 7th, the infamous “grab ’em by the p#$%!” tape came out followed in short order (less than 48 hours) a release of Podesta hacked e-mails. The timing sounds suspicious, but there were no protests from the Clinton campaign, the FBI, the CIA or John Podesta. Only after Trump won did this become an issue.
Regardless, the CIA even admits that most of the evidence gathered is inconclusive. Throwing more confusion into the mix, the FBI disagrees with some of the motives suggested by the intelligence community. According to some newspaper accounts, the FBI and CIA gave differing accounts of Russian motivation to congressional officials.
Equally important, the CIA has made no public claim that Russia hacked the election. In fact, many veterans within the intelligence community have taken the strong measure of publicly urging caution with respect to the leaked reports. Further confusing the subject, there is no clear idea what the CIA’s conclusions are since they have not officially briefed Congress.
However and most important, the CIA and FBI have concluded that there is absolutely no evidence Russia hackers distorted the electoral outcome. It was not as if they were covertly adding 10,000 votes to Trump’s total in Michigan. The recounts in Wisconsin prove the integrity of the voting process. In Michigan, they revealed no Russian influence, but possibly domestic voter fraud in the metropolitan Detroit area in favor of Clinton. If proven, Jill Stein has effectively undid everything the Brennan Center for Justice has been misleading the public about for years- that there is no voter fraud. The most the CIA can say at this point is that Russia may have helped hack the DNC and possibly John Podesta’s e-mails. That is it in a nutshell.
There are two actors in this saga whose words should be taken with a grain of salt. The first is that of Barack Obama who is not immune from using the intelligence community for political gain. A perfect example is the manipulation of intelligence in 2014-15 to show that administration was waging a successful war against ISIS. The second actor is Wikileaks leader Julian Assange who insists the Russians were not involved in the e-mails his site released. Why anyone would believe anything Julian Assange said is beyond this writer’s imagination.
Assuming the Russians were behind some hacking and behind the dissemination of “fake news” or propaganda, the next logical question is whether they succeeded. There is not evidence whatsoever that any released hack e-mail or revelation had any effect on the electoral outcome. It did not help Trump, nor did it hurt Clinton. Hillary lost the election on her own accord. In fact, it has since been revealed that her brain trust basically shunned Bill Clinton’s suggestions that they concentrate more heavily in the Rust Belt.
Overall, research shows that partisan electoral interventions in another country’s election has positive effects swaying the election about 3 points in favor of the interventionist. However, covert interventions- like hacking and fake propaganda efforts- make the intervention even less successful and Russian intervention in American politics and vice versa is even less effective still.
Yet intervention in elections by foreign governments is nothing new. In 2015, the US State Department made a $300,000 “donation” to an Israeli pro-peace activist group that opposed Benjamin Netanyahu. In 1984, Senator Ted Kennedy actually asked for Soviet help in that year’s presidential election. In the past 12 years, the United States has intervened in elections in Afghanistan, Moldova, Kenya, the Ukraine and Lebanon. In the latter case, it was Joe Biden who dropped the hint that aid to Lebanon may be less forthcoming if a certain party gained power. Using Wikileaks or hacking e-mails has simply added another tool to a country’s bag of dirty tricks.
This writer has no problem with the US “interfering” in a foreign election if a desired outcome coincides with American interests. But, do not cry fould when it is done to us.
So, we are left with why Russia would want to sway the election one way or another. If the motivation was/is to yield Eastern Europe to Russia, putting Western Europe at risk as a result, give up plans for a missile defense system in Europe, agree to cuts in the nuclear arsenal, or cede the Middle East to the Russians? Too late- Hillary Clinton already achieved that with her infamous reset.
Instead, a theory has been floated which some have erroneously noted only recently surfaced. However, Politico mentioned back in July of this year that Putin may have targeted Clinton in particular because he holds a grudge against her and blames the US State Department and Clinton responsible for instigating riots in response to the Russian parliamentary elections. For example, as early as 2011 Russian media was accusing the State Department of paying an election observer to report election violations. In their words:
“Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had harsh words for Clinton, saying she had’set the tone for some opposition activists, gave them a signal … and [they] started active work.'”
It is NOT that Putin favored Trump over Clinton. It IS that Putin has embarked on a program designed to weaken public trust in liberal democratic systems. He has done it in repeatedly in Europe and the 2016 election in the United States presented a huge opportunity. Did he prefer Trump over Clinton? Most likely, but that would put him in with the people who voted for Trump. In either case, Putin wins.
Either his “preferred” candidate wins (and remember he has a grudge against Clinton) OR he inflicts enough mistrust in the electoral system that the non-Clinton choice enters office weakened. The advent of new technology and especially social media simply increases his capability to do so not with small countries like the Ukraine and Moldova, but with a superpower like the United States.
As for the reaction here in the US, the best explanation is that is that this is simply fake news that meets the narrative of the Leftist media. It is not unknown that Russia uses false propaganda to affect public opinion in foreign countries. But the US media obviously engages in bias, “fake news,” and lies to shift public opinion. Remember all those polls predicting a Clinton victory? The more assumptions you have to make, the less likely the explanation is likely to be. And the media is falling for it hook, line and sinker. Putin is laughing in Moscow today.