Don’t be shocked at this, but the Russians meddled in the 2016 election. At least, that’s what the intelligence community has officially alleged in a report issued to the public Friday.
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the report says. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
The report goes on for 25 pages to describe Russian attempts to run an influence operation within the 2016 campaign, outlining how the intelligence community believes that Vladimir Putin and his spies took sides against Hillary Clinton and played a role in her defeat. The report claims the Russians were behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s email server and the disclosure of its contents to WikiLeaks through a third party, that Russian trolls and bots created social media buzz aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton, and that Putin’s state-run media puppets RT and Sputnik let loose a stream of propaganda aimed at casting Trump as an outsider persecuted by the American media and government establishment.
Power Line’s John Hinderaker is less than impressed with the report…
Does the report prove that claim? No, it merely states it. There is zero evidence in the report tying the Russian government (or anyone else) to the crude spearfishing effort or to the generic, out-of-date malware that invaded the DNC’s and Podesta’s email systems. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
Weirdly, today’s report never mentions the one the same agencies (apparently) released eight days ago. That report did purport to contain evidence of Russia’s involvement in the email intrusions, but, as we and many others pointed out, that supposed evidence was essentially meaningless. Anyone could have carried out the simple attack described in last week’s report, and neither the malware used nor the IP addresses implicated — contrary to the conclusory claims of the report — tied the intrusion to Russia’s government.
Disclosing the proof might also be disclosing sources and methods used to acquire it. One surmises that proof would be classified, which appears both understandable and convenient.
Well, OK. We might be a little more sympathetic to that story were it not for the thorough politicization of the intelligence community over the last eight years. It’s difficult to take the word of the same administration who tried to tell us the Benghazi massacre was a protest over a video, or who turned the Defense Intelligence Agency into a propaganda outfit for the purpose of lying about its successes in the fight against ISIS, whose national intelligence director called the Muslim Brotherhood a “largely secular” organization, and who leaked to reporters the idea that Trump ought to be denied the regular intelligence briefing customary to a major-party nominee.
It’s hardly a major surprise that Friday’s report generated the same “Meh” reaction from most of the American public that the rest of the narrative that somehow the Russians fixed the 2016 election has.
The report does, thankfully, make mention of the fact that this isn’t the first time the Russians have been meddling in American politics. It turns out you don’t have to be a member of the intelligence community to be familiar with this fact, and in fact you’re more likely to be amused at this entire controversy if you’re not.
After all, the Russians have been doing this stuff since 1917. It’s only been a century.
Remember the International Workers of the World? There was a Soviet-funded communist union which sought to bring down the American capitalist system. There is no particular question that the IWW was controlled by the Soviets at least in part — Hollywood made a terrible movie starring Warren Beatty (that would be Reds, which still inexplicably makes its rounds on cable TV) about that very subject.
The IWW was only part of the Russian/Soviet political project in this country. There was the Communist Party USA, which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Soviet Comintern, and the agitators it trained and paid infiltrated large swaths of American society — unions, cultural institutions, radical politics and so forth. Or perhaps we’re supposed to forget about Alger Hiss, or the Soviet penetration of the New Deal. Maybe someone could explain the prophetic nature of the CPUSA’s 45 stated goals read into the congressional record in 1963. Or the connections between the KGB and the 1960’s New Left, or even the KGB’s infiltration into Catholicism by constructing liberation theology out of whole cloth — that happens to be a guiding force behind the politics of the Democrats’ 2016 vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine.
By the way, Richard Nixon’s ghost called and reminded us of this Nikita Khrushchev quote about Francis Gary Powers and the 1960 election: “We kept Nixon from being able to claim that he could deal with the Russians; our ploy made a difference of at least half a million votes, which gave Kennedy the edge he needed.”
None of that influence and meddling changed with the fall of the Berlin Wall, mind you; Soviet backing of the nuclear freeze movement in the 1980s, which soaked up lots of current Democrat politicians like John Kerry and Joe Biden at the time, begat Russian backing of the anti-fracking movements across the world — let’s count the Democrat pols in league with Putin on that issue.
The RT propaganda offensive which supposedly produced Trump? An even better case can be made that it pumped up the Occupy movement so many on the Left loved so much.
All of which has been the source of Republican warnings for decades. The response, of course, was to denounce the worriers as McCarthyites. Everybody knows the drill. Until it negatively affects the Democrats, it’s no problem.
Unsurprisingly Trump’s supporters don’t care about any of this, and it’s why the efforts to turn Putin’s propaganda offensive and airing the contents of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails via WikiLeaks haven’t become the casus belli for a new Cold War or a delegitimization of the Trump presidency the Left is hoping for. As Ted Cruz said last week, there is “no evidence whatsoever that Russia’s efforts against us, which have been longstanding, did anything to affect the campaign.”
Let’s thank our pals on the Left for their newfound discovery of Russian influence operations. But if they want to give this issue a full airing, let’s not forget what those efforts have produced for their benefit over the past century.