Make no mistake, yesterday’s Washington Post revelation that the CIA has concluded that Russia was actively trying to elect Donald Trump as opposed to just “meddling with” the election, is a nuclear bombshell. And if the Post piece is Hiroshima, then today’s New York Times story, which adds the detail that Russian actors also hacked email accounts at the Republican National Committee but did not release those publicly as they did Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails, is Nagasaki.
Hyperbole? Think again. A foreign government may have determined the outcome of a presidential election. And not Canada or Costa Rica, but Russia: the United States’ chief historic adversary and an oligarchy ruled by a tyrant who has systematically taken away rights. Bombshells don’t come much bigger.
Oh, wait; yes they do. On top of all the above, leaders of one of our two political parties—I’ll let you hazard a guess as to which one—argued against letting the American public know about all this before the election, reportedly saying it would be too partisan. That’s not hardball politics. That’s a hair’s breath away from treason.
So yes, this is major. But let’s catch our breath. We don’t know yet for a fact that these allegations are true. Both stories came from anonymous intelligence community sources, and in all such cases, the sources need to be considered. So the Obama administration and the CIA should put this information out there publicly.
And if the evidence is persuasive, what next?
It’s hard to say. It will be easy to prove to all but the most purblind partisans that Russia had the intent of electing Trump. But it will be much more difficult to prove that Russia did in fact elect Trump. That may never be provable. Unless evidence emerges that Russia specifically altered vote counts, Republicans will always be able to say it was something else and turn it back on Hillary.
Good luck getting Republicans to agree on anything here. Mitch McConnell? Please. He’s the one who said, at a hush-hush meeting back in September where administration officials urged that bipartisan group of 12 legislators go public with concerns about Russian interference in the election, that he would not participate and that if Democrats did so, he would tell the American people this was just partisan politics.
Think that through. McConnell, according to the Post story, showed no concern about the truth of the allegations. And bear this nugget in mind: This was not Barack Obama trying to persuade him to join in this bipartisan effort. This was Lisa Monaco, the president’s counterterrorism adviser; and Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security secretary; and FBI Director James Comey. McConnell told Comey, in essence, to go take a jump in the lake. McConnell was interested only in party, not at all in country. That’s not treason, but it sure isn’t patriotism.
This obviously cries out for hearings and an investigation, or a few of them. If we lived in a different universe, we’d ideally have a bipartisan investigation by Congress that was honest and serious and was able to be finished or at least to reach decent conclusions before the Electoral College votes on December 19.
But that will not happen. Republicans will make the Democrats do all the lifting here and then will cry that they’re being partisan and it’s just sour grapes. (Republican Senator John Cornyn tweeted, All this 'news' of Russian hacking: it has been going on for years. Serious, but hardly news.") But this is a genuine crisis. The guy who got 2.8 million fewer votes to begin with, and won because he took three states by less than 1 percent may have made it over the finish line, limping as he was, with a push from Vladimir Putin.
I know I often say “imagine if Hillary had done this,” but in this case, it’s not a mere hypothetical. Imagine the situation were reversed, and this lurid right-wing dystopic fantasy were playing out before our eyes—remembering, I should note, that Trump earlier in the campaign encouraged Russia to do more hacking of Clinton! What would the Republicans be doing? A few things, I think:
•They’d certainly be calling the election illegitimate and would declare Clinton an illegitimate president.
•They’d call on the electors to seat Trump, citing—and properly, by the way—the Founders’ view that electors existed for precisely this purpose.
•Noting that Clinton had (in this hypothetical) earlier egged Russia on, they would be accusing Clinton of being an agent of a foreign government; that is, of treason.
•They’d be so legally brilliant and diabolical that it’s far beyond my capacity even to imagine.
And what would rank-and-file conservatives be doing? Hard-shell Trumpists? Richard Spencer? The good folks at Stormfront?
What should the Democrats do? I’m not exactly sure. Demand the release of the information. Demand a real investigation, one that can be completed by Dec. 19, when the electors meet. Pin McConnell’s ears to the wall in every way they can think of, discredit him as much as possible. Liberals groups need to agitate from the outside. The media needs to get the message that conservatives aren’t the only people who get pissed off.
In a word: Fight. Like hell. Obama too. He’s been doing his job—ensuring the peaceful transition of power. But that is just a custom. He didn’t swear an oath to it. He did however swear an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. That comes first.
Liberals often accuse Democrats of bringing a knife to a gun fight. For this one, it’s time to haul out the bazooka.