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The headline refers to a meme floating around cyberspace concerning possible Russian interference in our election process. It shows four photos of crowded Trump rallies, and has the caption “All of this was not caused by a Russian hack.” In addition to this statement, the majority opinion, based on what I’ve seen floating around Facebook, is that it doesn’t matter if Russia was complicit in the release of DNC emails; what’s more important is that the emails were revealed and showed underhanded dealings by the Democrats.”
The story is “The Russians didn’t do it, but if they did do it, it didn’t affect the election, but if it did affect the election, it did it by exposing Democratic dirty tricks.”
No surprise that a lot of information – and misinformation – has been floated about the discussion of Russian interference in our election process. Many different issues have been convoluted, some incorrectly. I’m going to try to sort out the issues separately here.
Was Russia involved in the hacking of the DNC servers? Seventeen out of 25 government agencies, based on their research, believe it was. Rebuttals have said “The CIA says so, but not the FBI,” and “Loretta Lynch doesn’t think it’s true,” and “It might be Russia, or it might be China.” The last comment came from Trump, so I put more faith in government investigative organizations and their research than I do in a proven liar.
The FBI was simply not as quick to release their findings. The FBI and CIA have different purposes. The CIA is interested in gathering accurate information. The FBI is interested in gathering actionable information, which is a higher standard. It’s not surprising they took longer to reach the same conclusion.
In response to the claim that not all government agencies said Russia was behind the hacking, I say, if even a few say there is credible evidence, doesn’t that warrant investigation when our national elections are at stake?
Did the hack affect our elections? The meme I mentioned at the start of this blog suggests that there were a lot of actual Trump supporters, and that ballot boxes were not stuffed, or election machines hacked. I agree that it is difficult and fruitless to try to hack individual voting machines. It is costly, and must be done on a massive scale, making it difficult to conceal what was being done. So no, there were actual people who voted for Trump – around 62,000,000.
There are other ways to affect elections. One way is by a government official releasing information that knowingly affects a candidate. Congress viewed this as a real enough threat that they passed the Hatch Act, named after Utah senator Orrin Hatch. The Hatch Act makes it illegal for a government official to release information knowing it will affect the outcome of an election. In fact, Nevada senator Harry Reid sent a letter stating he believed Comey violated this Act when he presented his information to Congress in October.
So our government believes it is possible to affect an election by releasing information. This is what the Russians have been doing.
Doesn’t the fact that the emails reveal irregularities in the DNC trump the way the emails were retrieved? (Pun intentional.) Even though it is not directly relevant to the issue at hand, I want to bring up the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. In criminal investigations, police are careful to make sure their evidence is legally obtained. If the courts determine that the evidence was obtained illegally, it is not permitted to be seen, regardless of how convincingly it proves their case. Not pursuing the bad actors (in this case, the Russians) can set a bad precedent; agents will be more likely to attempt to hack into servers knowing that the public will be more interested in the information than in the fact that it was illegally obtained.
Second, what the emails revealed is that the DNC wanted Clinton to be the nominee and targeted the Sanders campaign. DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigned over this discovery. This was met with outrage by some in the Sanders camp, and served to increase distrust in Democratic voters. However, nothing illegal was done.
Each party is entitled to choose their nominee however they like. (This is in contrast to general elections, where the method of election is clearly spelled out, and there are serious penalties for trying to bypass those methods.) The party hold a vote, then have a handful of people meet in a smoke-filled room and choose their nominee, regardless of the outcome of the vote. True, this is a sure way to alienate voters, but there is nothing illegal about it. Remember, some Republicans were trying to engineer a change at the Republican convention to have someone other than Trump be the nominee.
If you listen to detractors, they would suggest that Clinton and the rest of the Democrats should be executed for what their emails say they did.
So, the bottom line is that 17 of 25 government agencies concluded that the Russians were behind the hack of the DNC servers. In addition, they believe the Russians did it specifically to help Trump get elected. If it also comes out that some people in the Trump campaign were complicit in working with the Russians – well, I heard the word “treason” brought up in several news outlets.
All of this deserves to be taken extremely seriously.
What is more frightening to me is what information on the Republicans the Russians may be holding, and if they release any after Trump assumes power. Despite what it might reveal about the Republicans, I really don’t want that other shoe to drop.