“CIA believes Russia helped Donald Trump win the White House,” read the headline in the Daily News back in December. How did they accomplish this extraordinary feat? I wondered. Hacked voting machines in Pennsylvania? Mass hypnosis in Oklahoma? Itching powder in Hillary’s bedroom?
Alas, nothing quite so dramatic:
Officials briefed on the matter told the Washington Post the assessment found that several individuals with close ties to Moscow provided anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails in order to boost Trump and harm Hillary Clinton’s chances.
OK, they may have a point. We don’t know how WikiLeaks gets the documents that it publishes, and, although WikiLeaks denies it, it’s entirely possible that the trove of e-mails published in the runup to the elections came from Russia.
But in that case, whose fault is it? The Russians, for pursuing their national interests, or Hillary, for maintaining a private e-mail server that was eminently hackable? And the Democratic party, for not doing proper IT security?
It’s particularly interesting that nobody has suggested that the WikiLeaks e-mails are bogus. WikiLeaks had to be stopped—so said our President—not because they were fanciful storytellers, but because their documents were real.
So the Russians influenced our election… by making available information that the government would rather we didn’t know? Given that the information was acquired as a consequence of the carelessness and hubris of our leadership, how is this a bad thing? Sorry, guys: the exclusionary rule (that information gained in violation of Fourth Amendment rules cannot be used in a criminal trial) doesn’t apply. Hillary Clinton is not on criminal trial. (Or does someone imagine that she is?)
For the moment, let’s grant the report as written. It’s entirely plausible that (a) Russia forwarded hacked e-mails to WikiLeaks, and (b) did so to favor Trump in the election. But does that mean that (c) in the absence of such action, Hillary would have won?
I doubt it.
In the weeks before the election, WikiLeaks e-mail reports made the rounds of the alternative media, but didn’t get very much play in the mainstream media. As far as Hillary herself, the e-mails didn’t really deliver any new revelations as much as confirmation of what we had already surmised. It’s a preposterous stretch to go from ‘Russians delivered hacked e-mails to WikiLeaks’ to believing that ‘Trump won the election thanks to Russian hacking.’
In the following week, we learned:
- The President knew about ‘Russian hacking’ several weeks before the election, but our leadership claimed that they didn’t act because they didn’t want to appear to be favoring Hillary. But there were rumblings in the news at the time, and if the President wanted to do something, prudence would dictate that he would have to do so quietly, without calling a press conference.
- The Republicans suffered hacking attempts from the same actors, at about the same time. But the GOP is apparently better at IT security, and the hacking attempts were not successful.
I had expected this issue to go away after Trump was confirmed in the Electoral College vote on 19 December. But it’s still with us, and today Congress will vote to ratify the Electoral College results and confirm Trump as President-elect.
Our current leadership has been briefed on this issue, and seems to believe it, even though no specifics have come out in the press. (I guess all the specifics are deep dark secrets.) Trump is scheduled to be briefed today, and even though he’s given to running off at the mouth on Twitter, I don’t expect that to happen this time.
We shall see….