We have a lot more to learn.
The disagreement between some Republicans and Democrats on Russia’s intentions in hacking the election rests partially on the lack of agreement between intelligence agencies and the FBI about the conclusiveness of the evidence, officials explained this weekend.
The US intelligence community is increasingly confident that Russian meddling in the American election was intended to steer the election toward Donald Trump, multiple sources have said. That revelation, first reported by CNN a week ago, went beyond the October statement by the 17 intelligence agencies that only said that Russia was seeking to undermine the election, but did not go as far as to say it was to benefit Trump.
The New York Times reported this weekend that part of the reason for the change is that the CIA believes the Russians hacked not only Democratic organizations but Republican groups too, but that they only published documents from Democrats.
The FBI hasn’t concluded that the RNC itself was directly breached, a law enforcement official said Sunday. FBI investigators did find that a breach of a third-party entity that held data belonging to the RNC. But the data appears to have been outdated and of little value to the hackers. The FBI also found that some conservative groups and pundits were hacked. The FBI also hasn’t found conclusive evidence to show that it was done to help Trump.
“At this point, there appears to have been a combination of motivations,” one US law enforcement official said. “They wanted to sow discord and undermine our systems. It’s clear not even the Russians thought he would win.”
First, it is not surprising that the Russians might have been meddling in our elections. Russia under Putin has proven to be a state whose ambition to return to super power status is unbridled by scruples. Given that Russia has a vested interest in the outcome of the election, or, at least, has a vested interested in undermining the legitimacy of the United States government, we would be fools to think that they would sit idly by. It is unclear if Russia was angling for a particular outcome, but it is increasingly clear that they were sowing discord.
Second, the fact that Russia was probably meddling does not deligitimize our election unless we think that they were able to actually change the result. At this point, there isn’t any indication that the outcome would have been different had Russia stayed away. The Democrats are using this as a fig leaf to cover their electoral failure. The problem is that if they really believe that they lost because of Russia, they will not take the steps necessary to win future elections.
Third, the fact that so many people distrust the statements by our various intelligence agencies, myself included, is because the Obama administration has so politicized federal agencies. After the scandals at the DOJ, IRS, ICE, HHS, HUD, FBI, EPA, FEMA, and even at the State Department, it is little wonder that many Americans have lost faith in the notion that our federal agencies can operate without political bias.
What is clear is that we need to do a lot more investigation.