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Russian ratfucking in 2016 was hugely consequential

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Hope Hicks testified yesterday that the Trump campaign initially saw the release of the Access Hollywood tape as an existential threat to his campaign:

Gasps were heard in the overflow courtroom when Hope Hicks was called as a witness on Friday in Donald J. Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, an audible sign of the anticipation as Mr. Trump’s former press secretary and White House communications director took the stand. Her testimony ended the trial’s third week in dramatic fashion.

In nearly three hours on the stand, Ms. Hicks described the impact on Mr. Trump’s campaign of the so-called “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Mr. Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. As soon as the tape was disclosed in October 2016, Ms. Hicks said, she knew it would be “a massive story.”

This also was the only point at which elite Republicans seriously considered abandoning Trump. What bailed Trump out, of course, was the intervention of Russian intelligence and Julian Assange:

Trump and his goons and apologists have been remarkable effective at selling the idea that “Russiagate” was somewhere between a hoax and a triviality, although this is plainly false. But this is the starkest example of its importance: “Russiagate was a hoax” depends on pretending that #2 and #3 were independent events. when #3 was in fact a (highly successful!) strategic response to #2. Precisely because the Podesta inbox was leaked right after the Access Hollywood tape, it is impossible to even try to isolate the effects of either like one can with the Comey letter. But it is enormously likely that without the hack and strategic leak that Clinton wins. And indeed the impact of the Comey is related to the Russian/Wikileaks ratfucking, by keeping up a constant stream of stories implying that Clinton was corrupt linked to emails.

And it’s also important to observe here that the media treating “Donald Trump admitted to sexual assault on a live mic” and a bunch of stories like “Chelsea Clinton did not have a high opinion of David Brock” as scandals of roughly similar importance is not inevitable, but was a choice the nation’s elite political press made. Which needless to say is why they also have serious incentives to downplay the impact of Russian ratcuking — they were, after all, willful collaborators.

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