Yesterday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo gave a speech at an event hosted by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. There was some interesting stuff, like pledging that the CIA would “become a much more vicious agency” in dealing with adversaries and stating, as we all knew, that the premise that the Iran nuclear deal “would curtail Iranian adventurism, the terror threat, proved to be fundamentally false.” This is what drew the attention and attendant firestorm.
“The intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”
The CIA quickly issued a clarification:
“The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”
The “it” the CIA is referring to is this paragraph from the intelligence report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election:
We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.
If a garish hooker had walked into church, broke wind and flashed the preacher, the reaction would not have been louder:
Not true. The Intelligence Community Assessment specifically said the IC made no judgment on whether Russian interference affected election. https://t.co/PHxXjiLMh8
— David S. Cohen (@cohendavid) October 19, 2017
Either Dir Pompeo is just parroting POTUS talking points or he’s making major split from rest of the IC on Russia meddling. #FDDSummit
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) October 19, 2017
Remember this? –> Pompeo knew about Flynn's risk of being blackmailed but still briefed him on top secret intel.https://t.co/RFplNxCeNi
— Caroline Orr (@RVAwonk) October 20, 2017
— Fernand R. Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) October 20, 2017
Today Director Pompeo mischaracterized the Intelligence Community's report about Russia’s impact on the election. https://t.co/mOqqO6ToZ2
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 19, 2017
I warned in January that Director Pompeo’s views on Russia shifted with those of the president. Today is more evidence of that sad fact.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 19, 2017
— Clint Watts (@selectedwisdom) October 20, 2017
This is not a slip, as CIA pretends. It's a Trump talking point contrary to IC's assessment. Huge warning sign that Pompeo can't be trusted. https://t.co/cXfbQnCeFG
— Will Saletan (@saletan) October 20, 2017
Why the uproar? Because a large number of people, Democrats and on the right, are emotionally invested in the ridiculous idea that Trump won because of Russian influence. Right now the Russian financial investment in 2016 looks to be about $100,000 in a universe of about $2.65 billion spent by Clinton and Trump during the campaign. This does not count the value of “earned media,” or media like coverage of debates and rallies which would easily add another $1.5 billion to the ledger.
You can take Pompeo’s in one of three ways.
A. You can go with the CIA explanation that Pompeo simply misspoke. This can happen. But you also have to consider that this is not misstating the GDP of Burkina Faso, it is a central issue in what is probably the dominant political event in the nation. If this is known, Robert Mueller can pack his backs and go back to work protecting the Clintons from legal scrutiny.
B. You can go with the blue-checkmark mafia on Twitter and claim Pompeo is a Trump stooge. I’m sure there is more than one person who believes this to be the case. I haven’t seen the evidence but apparently, if Trump is your boss, being loyal to him is a sure sign of guilt.
C. You can consider the possibility that Pompeo spoke out of school and is telling the truth. That at some point the intelligence community decided to take a look at the possibility that Russia did get Trump elected. Realistically, what are the odds that the intelligence community went to great lengths to establish that Russia was doing in 2016 what it has been doing since 1948, that is meddling in US domestic politics, and decided, “no, we aren’t interested in examining, either directly or via contractors, if the meddling had impact because we really shouldn’t do that.” It could happen, sure. Did it?