The “three or four” agencies of the Federal Government all agreed that Russia interferred in the 2016 election. The CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, were each identified in a January report assessing with “high confidence” that Russia interfered in the election. However there was no agreement and no way of proving that the Russian hacking actually affected the outcome. Chris Wallace of Fox News described Trump’s win as “the biggest shock in American Political History.”
Thus, the mere fact of Trump’s win was a clear indication that something unpredictable and untoward happened. Even as of the date of the election Hillary Clinton was favored to win the election 71.4% to Trump’s 28.6%. Hillary was favored to win the popular vote as well as the electoral vote.
U.S. intelligence community agrees that Moscow sought to help Donald Trump win. However to conclude that Russia was successful in altering the results of the 2016 election would be an admission that a foreign government had successfully controlled the most sacred of our rights, that of self determination. To admit that Russia had chosen our President would be an admission that the United States of America was now controlled by Russia. Who would want to admit such a defeat? Certainly Trump has done nothing to ensure that hacking doesn’t occur in the future which by itself, would be an indication that Trump would prefer that the hacking continue.
In a new book, published by Oxford University Press, “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President—What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know,” Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communications at the University of Pennsylvania, makes a persuasive case that the Russian hack DID influence the election.
Jamieson has been described as “… the epitome of a humorless, no-nonsense social scientist driven by the numbers. She doesn’t bullshit. She calls it straight.” She presents a forensic analysis of evidence and concludes that Russia very likely delivered Trump’s victory. While she admits that her conclusion is not a “certainty”, she explains that her reasoning is based on the standard of the “preponderance of the evidence”, which is the legal standard used in Court. At the outset it is important to remember that the vote cast in the 2016 election were very close. Clinton was the popular vote by 2.9 million. Trump won the electoral vote because a mere 80,000 votes went his way in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvanis. The following is a summary of her conclusions extracted from two hundred and twenty-four pages of extremely dry prose, with four appendixes of charts and graphs and fifty-four pages of footnotes:
- The conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton had done pretty well during the debates with Trump. According to CNN polls conducted immediately after the debates, she won all three, by a margin of thirteen per cent or greater. But, in an election that turned on judgments of character, Americans who watched the debates concluded that Clinton “says one thing in public and something else in private.” Jamieson found that there was a “small but significant drop in reported intention to vote” for Hillary.
2. Before Congressional hearings, Facebook’s chairman and C.E.O., Mark Zuckerberg, had maintained that the amount of Russian content that had been disseminated on social media was too small to matter. But evidence presented to the Senate committee revealed that material generated by the Kremlin had reached a hundred and twenty-six million American Facebook users. Senator Dianne Feinstein described that cyberattack as “cataclysmic.”
3. The Russians tried “to minimize the vote of African-Americans.” One way of doing this was to circulate ads online depicting a black woman in front of an “african-americans for hillary” sign. The ad urged voters to tweet or text rather than vote, or to “avoid the line” and “vote from home.”
4. Political messages are especially persuasive when sent by trusted sources, such as members of one’s own community. Russian operatives, it turned out, disguised themselves in precisely this way. One such person was a Facebook, Melvin Redick, a genial family man from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, posted a link to DCLeaks.com, and wrote that users should check out “the hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US.” The profile photograph of “Redick” showed him in a backward baseball cap, alongside his young daughter—but Pennsylvania records showed no evidence of Redick’s existence, and the photograph matched an image of an unsuspecting man in Brazil. U.S. intelligence experts later announced, “with high confidence,” that DCLeaks was the creation of the G.R.U., Russia’s military-intelligence agency.
5. Political messages do not usually change the minds of voters who have already chosen a candidate. It is the undeided voters that can usually be persuaded. In 2016 an uncommonly high percentage of voters liked neither candidate and stayed undecided longer than usual. By some counts, about thirty-seven million Americans—fifteen per cent of the electorate—were still undecided in the final weeks before the election. Thus the Russian interference right before the election probably had an exaggerated effect.
6. Russian saboteurs nimbly amplified Trump’s divisive rhetoric on immigrants, minorities, and Muslims. Russian trolls pretended to have the same religious convictions as targeted users, and often promoted Biblical memes, including one that showed Clinton as Satan, with budding horns, arm-wrestling with Jesus, alongside the message “ ‘Like’ if you want Jesus to win!” One Instagram post, portraying Clinton as uncaring about the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, depicted a young American widow resting her head on a flag-draped coffin.
7. The “wide distribution” of the trolls’ disinformation “increases the likelihood” that it “changed the outcome.” Just before the second debate, WikiLeaks had released a cache of e-mails, obtained by Russian hackers, that, it said, were taken from the Gmail account of Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. They included excerpts from speeches that Clinton had given to banks, for high fees, and had refused to release during the campaign. The speeches could be used by detractors to show that, despite her liberal rhetoric, she was aligned with Wall Street. The hacked content permeated the discourse of the debates, informing both the moderators’ questions and the candidates’ answers. All this gave legitimacy to the idea that Clinton “said one thing in public and another in
8. During the second debate, on October 9th, before 66.5 million viewers, one of the moderators, Martha Raddatz, relayed a question submitted by a voter: Did Clinton think that it was acceptable for a politician to be “two-faced”? The question referred to a leaked passage from one of Clinton’s previously unreleased paid speeches; Russian hackers had given the passage to WikiLeaks, which posted it two days before the debate. Clinton sounded lilke a sneaky hypocrite.
9. The image of Clinton as a sneaky hypocrite was reinforced during the third debate which 71.6 million people watched. When Trump accused Clinton of favoring “open borders,” she denied it, but the moderator, Chris Wallace, challenged her by citing a snippet from a speech that she had given, in 2013, to a Brazilian bank: “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” Wallace said that the quotation had come from WikiLeaks. The clear implication of Wallace’s question was that Clinton had been hiding her true beliefs, and Trump said to him, “Thank you!” PolitiFact later concluded that Trump had incorrectly characterized Clinton’s speech, but the damage had been done. Viewers who watched the second and third debates saw Clinton as less forthright, and Trump as moreforthright. Among people who did not watch the debates, Clinton’s reputation was not damaged in this way.
10. Russian hackers had also been alarmingly successful in reframing the American political narrative during the crucial period leading up to the second debate. On Friday, October 7th, two days before it took place, three major stories landed in rapid succession. At 12:40 p.m., the Obama Administration released a stunning statement, accusing the Russian government of interfering in the election through hacking. This seemed certain to dominate the weekend news, but at 4:03 p.m. the Washington Post published a report, by David Fahrenthold, on an “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Trump boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy.” Then, less than half an hour later, WikiLeaks released its first tranche of e-mails that Russian hackers had stolen from Podesta’s account. The tranche contained some two thousand messages, along with excerpts from the paid speeches that Clinton had tried to conceal, including those that would be mentioned in the subsequent debates.
11. Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, has denied working with the Russian government, but he manifestly despises Clinton, and, in a leaked Twitter direct message, he said that “it would be much better for GOP to win.”
12. The Trump “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced the same time as the intelligence report on Russian interference. The intelligence community’s report faded from the headlines; that Sunday morning, none of its authors were invited on any major talk show. Instead, the programs breathlessly discussed the “pussy” tape and the Clinton campaign’s e-mails, which were portrayed as more or less exposing both candidates as liars.
There is no way that there will ever be any definitive proof that the Russian hacking actually pushed Trump across the finish line. Anyone who says it did is predictably going to be charged with bias. The truth is that Trump is our President and there is no provision in the constitution to over turn the election due to hacking. The fact that the Russians MAY have influenced the election should be enough to make every American committed to ensuring that this will never happen again.
So ask youself, what has America done to ensure that this violation never occurs again. The truth is that 19 months into his presidency, there is no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference — and no single person or agency in charge. Trump’s failure to take any action to prevent a future hack is the best evidence that the hack had the desired effect.