It’s in the nature of nation-states, especially those with pretensions to global influence, to insinuate themselves into the domestic operations of their neighbors near and far, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia has not exactly disguised its ambitions. Just ask the beleaguered residents of Ukraine and the Baltic states. According to the Washington Post, the CIA has concluded with “high confidence” that Russian interference in this year’s presidential election — primarily the thousands of e-mails leaked from the Democratic National Committee and others — was designed to boost Donald Trump’s electoral prospects, not merely to shake Americans’ faith in the integrity of their electoral system. If true — and that’s a big if as of now — Russia is more brazen than one might have thought.
Of course, interfering in an election by exposing sensitive information, as Russia seems to have done, and, say, tampering with Diebold machines are two different things — a distinction that Hillary Clinton partisans have conveniently forgotten. Since the report broke late last week, eminences such as Paul Krugman have called the election “tainted,” high-profile commentators have gone so far as to suggest we have a “revote,” and the Clinton campaign has announced that it supports a demand from ten presidential electors (among them Nancy Pelosi’s daughter) for an intelligence briefing in advance of the Electoral College’s December 19 vote. Needless to say, this is all part of the ongoing effort to find excuses for Clinton’s loss other than Hillary Clinton. Kremlin machinations make for a helpful addition to the list that also includes Madisonian republicanism, James Comey, and “fake news.”
Obviously, what is needed isn’t a “do-over election.” It’s a full congressional investigation to determine exactly what happened and why. The CIA has not yet provided public evidence to support its conclusion (the Post relies on anonymous officials making vague, unprovable assertions), and there is reportedly pushback from the FBI, as well as from members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. A congressional inquiry would be well advised, followed by a hardening of American defenses against future hacking efforts.
Also advisable would be a more responsible approach from the president-elect. In typical form, Trump called the CIA report “ridiculous” on Sunday morning and in an official statement sought to dismiss wholesale the agency’s credibility. A bit of outrage at news that a foreign power tried to sway American voters would be entirely warranted.
For eight years, the Obama administration has failed to properly distinguish America’s friends from its foes. Congress and the president-elect can defuse left-wing conspiracy-mongering without making the same mistake.