By Richard Edmondson
The Obama administration has ordered a full intelligence review into alleged efforts by Russian hackers to influence the outcome of the presidential election, with the president, according to media reports, requesting that a report on the matter to be completed before he leaves office on January 20.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz says he wants “to be clear” that this is not in any way an effort to undermine Trump’s legitimacy to hold office, only that there is a need to look at possible “malicious activity” carried out by the Russians.
“I think this is going to be a deep dive,” Schultz said, taking pains to clarify that the investigation will examine not only putative Russian manipulation of the most recent election, but also alleged tampering of the elections of 2012 and 2008.
I have a suggestion for Donald Trump. He probably won’t heed it, but I will offer it anyway: that immediately upon assuming office, he order the Office of Management and Budget to investigate how much tax money was squandered by the Obama administration in nearly six years of efforts to overthrow the government in Syria. Maybe Trump could order a ‘deep dive’ and ask the OMB to have the report completed within his first 60 days in office.
Many people, naturally, would see such a call as a retaliation for the investigation now being ordered by Obama–and certainly the media would report it that way–but the results of an investigation of this sort would be at least as beneficial, and probably a whole lot more interesting, than anything that might be turned up about Russians hacking into the computer systems of two thoroughly corrupt political parties.
We could find out, for instance, how much the US spent training and equipping Nour al-Din al-Zenki, the “moderate rebel” group which beheaded a 12-year-old Syrian child on video last July:
Yes, it would be nice if Trump were to order such an investigation…but I’m not going to hold my breath. In any event, we seem to be entering a new phase of anti-Russian propaganda in the media. The call for the intelligence review was made by an Obama administration official on Friday–the same day the Washington Post, in a report based almost solely on anonymous, unnamed “officials,” published allegations about a “secret CIA assessment” whose conclusion is that Russia sought to throw the election to Trump.
“The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter,” reports the Post.
Repeat: it wasn’t just a case of Russia trying to undermine faith in America’s wonderful, spectacular democracy where office is generally for sale to the highest bidder. No, it was Russia deliberately trying to put Trump into the White House, according to the Post–which is a short step away from accusing Trump of being a Russian agent.
There is also the claim that the Russians hacked into the files of both the Republican Party and the DNC, but that they (the Russians) deliberately sat on the material stolen from the Republicans, choosing instead only to release material embarrassing to the Democrats.
Could any of this be credible? Hard to say, but it seems the vote recount effort has fizzled out, and the new call for an investigation could be a “plan B” aimed either at getting Hillary in the White House or at least weakening Trump to the point where he will essentially be unable to govern or pursue his own independent foreign policy. That’s one way of looking at it anyway.
It also could be designed to create a schism within the Republican Party in the sense that many Republicans could end up finding themselves faced with the difficult choice of having to avow loyalty to their president or loyalty to America. As the Post puts it:
On the other hand, if Republicans downplay the issue, they risk giving a pass to an antagonistic foreign power whom significant majorities of Americans and members of Congress don’t trust and who, if the evidence is accurate, wields significant power to wage successful cyber warfare with the United States.
Two prominent Republicans in the Senate, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, have jumped on the bandwagon in support of a Senate probe into Russian hacking.
“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” said Graham. “I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay the price.”
It isn’t the US–a country that has been involved in one war or regime change after another for the last 25 years–that is “the most destabilizing influence on the world stage,” in Graham’s opinion; it is Russia.
Trump’s response has been to dismiss the allegations of Russian hacking, while also recalling lies of the past:
These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.
How all this will play out remains to be seen, but it looks like the political divisions in America are widening rather than narrowing…and it also looks like the propaganda war against Russia will continue to be used to the advantage of one side–beyond the November election and on into the new administration.
If the Russians thought sanity would prevail after the transition of power in January, they’re probably in for a disappointment.