Donald Trump had his long awaited sit down with DNI James Clapper and assorted functionaries today to talk about the CIA report that purports to prove that Russia intervened in the US election with the purpose of electing Trump.
The report was leaked to basically every reporter in Washington last night making today’s meeting somewhat anticlimactic and leaving Trump as possibly the last important person in Washington who hadn’t seen the report. The results could best be summed up as “agree to disagree.”
Cyberattacks by foreign nations had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement following a briefing by senior intelligence officials on their assessment that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
While Trump conceded that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee,” he stopped short of saying that he believes Russia was the perpetrator of the DNC breach — or that it was an attempt to meddle in the election.
“There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful,” Trump said in the statement.
I think that all of this is pretty safe ground with some contentious spots.
Trump didn’t deny, for a change, that there was a Russian connection to the hacking of the DNC but, at least from what has been given to the public by the FBI/DHS, no one really knows where the attack originated from and many cyber-security experts are now claiming that the uniquely Russian hacking tools allegedly used in the rampage through the DNC’s server is actually downloadable from the internet. Preponderance of evidence, however, clearly points the finger at a Russian operated break in and the possibility of a Russian government connection is pretty high.
The Intelligence Community has backed down from their initial pronouncement that the RNC server was not even attacked, the FBI has said it was, to now saying, “yeah, but they didn’t try real hard.” I have no way of evaluating that claim or how to even evaluate the evidence absent interviewing the hackers. And Trump’s completely right on the impact. The odds of either the DNC or Podesta emails change Hillary votes to Trump votes approaches nil. As Allahpundit, over at HotAir, says:
It’s true that the nightly news shows on the broadcast networks gave short shrift to the Wikileaks revelations but it’s also true that interest online started spiking in October, when new Podesta emails began appearing regularly. There’s no way to gauge how influential they were, really, because of their drip-drip-drip nature; if the entire batch had been released on one day, we could have looked at the polls from the following week and had a better sense. Regardless, “no one knew about the emails!” seems less persuasive to me as an argument for why they didn’t decide the election than the reality of their consumption through a partisan lens. I’d bet bigly, as Trump might say, that the people who were most interested in the Wikileaks stuff were people who were never voting Hillary to begin with. The Podesta emails were Exhibit Z999 for Trump voters on why she should never be president. For everyone else: Meh. At best, I think, they lent a bit of extra zest to the already pervasive sense that she was too corrupt to be worthy of a vote.
It would seem to me that if the emails had any effect at all you would have seen a sharp drop in Clinton’s polling from October forward… you don’t… and she wouldn’t have won the popular vote. If this was all the Russians could do to try to screw with an election, it was pretty much of a flop.
Senior intelligence officials have said publicly that there is no way to judge the impact of the hacks on the final vote tally. Trump noted in his statement that there was no tampering with physical voting machines.
“They didn’t change any vote tallies,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers on Thursday.
“We have no way of gauging the impact that — certainly the Intelligence Community can’t — the choices that the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge,” Clapper said.
Trump’s statement also called for the U.S. to do more to combat cyberattacks, saying that he will appoint a team to provide “a plan” within 90 days of his inauguration.
“The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” he said.
Until the report is released, and that should happen this evening, this is all we have. Both sides are dug in. We’ll have to wait until after January 20 to assess the damage done to our national security by this episode.