Home / General / The Russian Hacking News: It’s Worse than Scott Thinks

The Russian Hacking News: It’s Worse than Scott Thinks


Shakezula posted on the Washington Post story last night, and Scott beat me to it today. There’s nothing surprising in the general contours of the emerging reports:

  • Russian agents and organs tried to influence the election.
  • The goal wasn’t simply to undermine faith in American institutions but also to help Trump.
  • We know that because, among other things, Russian agents hacked GOP emails as well but didn’t make use of what they acquired.
  • The intelligence community cannot directly tie the activity to decision makers in the Kremlin.

A lot of this is, if true, confirmation of what experts have long believed about Russian interference in the 2016 election. We should also not react with high moral indignation toward Russia. Moscow is just using the instruments at its disposable to enhance its influence and security. That’s what great powers do. Both Moscow and Washington have long histories of intervening in the affairs of other states—including engaging in regime change. Moscow is particularly reliant on information warfare against western democracies because of its relative geopolitical weakness. Unfortunately, the strategy is working pretty well, and Germany’s next on the list.

But we don’t need to act like hypocrites to recognize the general terribleness of last twenty-four hours of news. We already knew that Mitch McConnell was willing to break the system for partisan ends, but even I never through that he would actually run interference for a foreign power simply to achieve political power.

I’ll go further than Scott: McConnell cannot retain his status as Majority Leader. He has disqualified himself.

But he will retain his status.

Given that Paul Ryan cares more about privatizing Medicare than even worrying about Trump’s massive conflicts of interest, Democrats will have to align with the few Republicans who actually value democratic institutions if we want to avert possible disaster.

And Americans do need to worry. The Trump campaign had a straightforward and appropriate response on Russian hacking and efforts to influence the US election. It could have said: “we condemn foreign interference in American elections. We will do everything that we can to get to the bottom of this, and take appropriate action.” But, instead, their press release simply attacks the Central Intelligence Agency.

Now, you might argue that the Trump campaign is boxed in. Recall that Trump once invited Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. But Trump insisted that he was joking. So that option remains open. But Trump has (so far) refused to take it. Instead he has repeatedly denied Russian involvement. This leaves roughly three possibilities.

First, there’s truth to the apparently “ungrounded” accusations that people in the Trump campaign were colluding with Russian hackers—or, at least, their intermediaries at Wikileaks.

Second, Trump—perhaps influenced by prolonged exposure to Michael Flynn—is simply delusional on this point. That is, he has significant problems dealing with evidence that cuts against his preferences. He doesn’t want to believe the intelligence community. So he simply attacks it. In this case, perhaps it threatens his ego by detracting from his electoral victory.

Third, the Trump campaign wasn’t colluding with Moscow, but it’s still somehow compromised. In its most benign form, Trump just really wants closer cooperation with Russia. In its scarier forms, we start getting into fears about Trump’s business ties to Moscow, or even the idea that Russia has kompromat or some other leverage over Trump, his inner circle, the GOP, or all three. Because Trump never disclosed his taxes, we know little about his business connections with Russia. But we have reason to believe that these—and those of his inner circle— are not trivial. Moreover, the Post story supports the fear that the hackers are holding RNC—and perhaps other campaign-related—emails of the kind used effectively against Clinton and the DNC.

These possibilities are all awful.

What’s even worse? The baseline GOP response is that this story is all about Democrats being “sore losers.” These are people who—and I know that I’m a broken record on this—six months ago were telling us that Obama’s too weak on Putin, repeatedly argue that the United States needs to do a better job of standing up for its allies, and who claim that the they are patriots who put country first.

This is the wages of weaponized partisanship. Party before country.

Well, not everyone.

Strange days, here we come.


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