It’s not clear from the clip below which part, exactly, he thinks is “ridiculous.” (The stuff on Russia comes right at the beginning.) Does he mean it’s ridiculous to think he would have lost if not for Russia’s and Wikileaks’s help? He’s right that that’s dubious, but that’s not what the CIA is claiming. They’re claiming that Russia tried to help him, not that their help was decisive. An enemy power trying to game a U.S. election is a big deal even if the attempt is unsuccessful.
Or does he mean that it’s ridiculous to conclude with any certainty that it was Russia that hacked the DNC and fed information to Wikileaks?
Unless you catch "hackers" in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
Er, it was brought up before the election. But never mind that. He makes the point in the clip — and has made it before — that, for all we know, it could have been some random hacker somewhere in his mom’s basement who’s behind this whole thing, as though the CIA and FBI have no forensic capabilities in sniffing out the identities of foreign-state hackers. Trump has no reason to believe that beyond his own wish that it’s true. And he’s putting himself in a position as president where he won’t be able to credibly accuse any enemy power of a cyberattack on the United States if one happens during his term. If China decides to smack him by infiltrating the Trump Organization’s servers (which, right, they’ve almost certainly done already), on what basis could President Trump turn around and blame them? His whole argument over the past week has been that it doesn’t matter if the CIA has “high confidence” that a foreign actor is behind an act of cyberespionage. Hackers don’t leave fingerprints, according to him, and even if they did you can’t trust the people who thought Saddam had WMDs to find the culprits. So why should China or anyone else hold back?
And note well: Trump’s not just arguing here that we can’t know for sure who hacked the DNC. He’s proactively trying to exculpate Russia. At one point he says, almost as an aside about Russia being the likely culprit, “I don’t really think it is.” Why take that extra step? On what is his suspicion that Russia is innocent based, apart from the fact that he wants to make some “great deals” with Putin and this will throw a wrench into the process? The president of the United States shouldn’t be looking the other way at enemy transgressions, especially when they involve screwing with an American election, just because it’s inconvenient to his diplomatic ambitions. Obama’s been doing that for years with Iran and conservatives have bashed him endlessly, and correctly, for it. For the record, as best as I can tell from the reporting, there’s actually little disagreement between the CIA and the FBI that Russia was behind the election hacking. The disagreement between the agencies has to do chiefly with motive. Was Putin trying to help Trump win, as the CIA seems to believe, or was he trying to sow distrust in democratic processes, as the FBI seems to believe?
American spy and law enforcement agencies were united in the belief, in the weeks before the presidential election, that the Russian government had deployed computer hackers to sow chaos during the campaign. But they had conflicting views about the specific goals of the subterfuge…
Both intelligence and law enforcement officials agree that there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the Russian hacking was primarily aimed at helping Mr. Trump and damaging his opponent, Hillary Clinton…
A senior American law enforcement official said the F.B.I. believed that the Russians probably had a combination of goals, including damaging Mrs. Clinton and undermining American democratic institutions. Whether one of those goals was to install Mr. Trump remains unclear to the F.B.I., he said.
“I think there’s no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction, and we should follow it where it leads,” Pence, who is currently Indiana governor, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “And there should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Pence added, “I think there’s more and more evidence that implicates Russia, and there should be serious consequences.”
Unlike Trump, Pence takes his daily intelligence briefings seriously. (Chris Wallace also asks him about that towards the start of the clip. Trump’s answer is that he’s a “smart” person and doesn’t need to hear the same thing every day. Unlike Mike Pence, Obama, George W. Bush, etc, I guess.) Finally, at one point Trump disputes Wallace’s claim that this is the assessment of the intelligence community by insisting that it’s really just Democrats who are putting it out. Not so. Again, Mike Pence was clearly convinced of Russia’s culpability two months ago. And the IC is confident enough about its conclusion to have briefed members of Congress about it at least twice since September. Unless Trump is accusing Obama’s administration of outright lying about Russia’s role to try to damage him politically — and if he is, he should make that plain — then he’s basing his claim that this is a partisan hit job on nothing except, once again, wishful thinking.
But this is why congressional hearings are a good idea. Let’s test the evidence. If Trump is right that the accusations against Russia are thin, we need to know it and investigate why the IC was so quick to point a finger at Putin. If the evidence is solid, we need to know that too. I’ll leave you with this, which is sort of true but incomplete:
Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
It’s true, the hack media would rush to discredit any whiff of sour grapes by Trump — although an assessment by the CIA with “high confidence” that Trump was right about Russian interference on Hillary’s behalf would have complicated things. But isn’t it also true that a credible IC accusation that Putin tried to help get Clinton elected would have inspired an earthquake of righteous outrage on the right, up to and including the claim that Clinton was an illegitimate president because of it? We would have heard calls for a new election, an electoral-college revolt, etc etc, even if there was no strong evidence that Russia’s help had been decisive in her victory. Is foreign interference in an election a problem only if it favors the wrong candidate?