On June 21, the Associated Press posted a story about testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee made earlier that day. Bill Priestap, the FBI’s top counterintelligence official, said that in disrupting the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the Russians “used fake news and propaganda and they also used online amplifiers to spread the information to as many people as possible.”
The primary goal of the Russian efforts, Priestap said, was to disrupt the electoral process and aid the candidacy of Donald Trump.
At the same time as Priestap’s testimony, the House Intelligence committee heard much the same thing from Jeh Johnson. “The Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election – plain and simple,” testified the Homeland Security Secretary under Barrack Obama. This hacking was directed at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.
And yet, the AP reported, those Russian efforts “did not change the ballots, the final count or the reporting of election results.”
In other words: yes, the Russians interfered with the election to help Trump, but no, it did not affect the final result.
Or that is what seems to be implied. I don’t buy it. The AP specifically says the meddling “did not change the ballots, the final count.” If this and other media reports are true – and we’ve all been hearing about it for many months – then the Russian meddling, with its “fake news and propaganda,” would almost certainly have influenced voters long before election day, thus affecting the final result. Changing the ballots had nothing to do with it.
Jeh Johnson acknowledged this, but offered no conclusions. “I am not in a position to know,” he said, “whether the successful Russian government-directed hacks of the DNC and elsewhere did in fact alter public opinion and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election.”
Is it not curious that Trump has shown no interest in this matter, beyond his ongoing dismissals that Democrats have cooked the whole thing up because they lost an election everyone thought they’d win?
As president, he is sworn to uphold the Constitution and is, ostensibly at least, a leader. But then, he knows better than most that he lost the popular election by some three million votes. We must never forget that: Trump lost. In my view, the Russian meddling explains this, and explains why the polling was all so very wrong.
It is clear that we remain in uncharted territory. Trump continues on as a grotesquely unqualified charlatan without a shred of credibility. God only knows where all of this is headed.
Everything I’ve written here is based on media reports. People I know of, who claim to investigate the “deep state” and describe just about everything in conspiratorial terms, probably consider me a naif. They view the question of Russian hacking as merely the bas relief of broader and deeper political intrigue. Maybe so. But what I am able to decipher is astonishing enough.