This past Friday, the US intelligence community released what the New York Times would later call a ‘damning report’ about their findings with regards to the involvement of Russia in the US election. This issue was a hot subject of contention over the last 6 months or so of the election, with the multitude of WikiLeaks and other revelations from the Democratic National Committee showing the organization to be corrupt, and in many cases working in league with mainstream media outifits to its own ends.
In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the media and the DNC beat the ‘Russians hacked the election’ drum ever louder. Some establishment Republicans, such as John McCain and Linsey Graham cottoned on to this as well, perhaps hoping to parlay these allegations into the increased US military offensive they’d been dreaming about.
All of this noise set up the report that was released by US intelligence on Friday. It was a de-classified effort, which aimed to outline exactly what the Russians did to influence the US election. Both the report itself, and the media coverage of the report and the issue generally are important to analyze with respect to the larger issue of a legitimate Trump presidency, and beyond that, a political intelligence community and heavily biased media.
Analyzing The Report’s Findings
The meat of the report begins as follows:
We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency
Given that the report was declassified for public consumption, it makes note of the fact that it could not be very extensive in terms of providing direct evidence as this would betray some of its ‘collection’ methods and perhaps compromise sources. Thus, phrases such as ‘assess with high confidence’ are littered throughout the report in lieu of concrete evidence. In short we’re supposed to just take their word for it that the conclusions reached are valid.
According to the report, Putin masterminded an influence campaign aimed at altering the US election by undermining faith in the electoral process and harming Clinton. The Russian government had a preference for Trump, and when it looked as though Clinton would win they focused on stopping her.
If that warrants a deeper look by US intelligence agencies with a view to determining foul play, then surely the actions of the ‘globalist influence campaign’ require a second look as well. After all, the Russian government was not the only foreign entity which was shown to have a clear preference for one of the candidates in the 2016 election.
Hillary Clinton says foreign leaders are privately reaching out to her to ask if they can endorse her to stop Donald Trump from becoming president of the United States.
“I am already receiving messages from leaders,” Clinton told an Ohio audience at a Democratic presidential town hall on Sunday night.
“I’m having foreign leaders ask if they can endorse me to stop Donald Trump.”
The likes of Matteo Renzi of Italy (when he was still PM), and Francois Hollande of France did so publicly, and many other former heads of state such as Tony Blair and Vicente Fox did as well. UK Parliament was forced to debate a motion to ban Donald Trump from the country, after receiving the requisite number of signatures to a petition.
Furthermore, in the vein of the reports’ allegation that the Russians tactically switched focus when they thought Clinton was set to win, when Trump actually won the election, the focus of the ‘globalist influence campaign’ switched to undermining his presidency.
Nationwide rioting, Jill Stein’s recount effort, the focus on getting the Electoral College to ‘vote its conscience,’ and of course the Russian hacking angle, were all tools used to undermine the incoming Trump presidency by planting the seed that something was ‘wrong’ with outcome on November 8. To date, I haven’t seen much in the way of outrage at this blatant attempt to question Trump’s legitimacy, let alone official intelligence inquiries.
The report continues on, painting a picture of a Russian revenge plot, seeking retribution for the US-backed release of the Panama Papers, as well as the Olympic Doping scandal. Putin personally is supposedly holding a grudge against Clinton for negative comments she made about him back in 2011 and 2012.
The report says that Putin preferred Trump owing to his ‘stated policy to work with Russia’ (the horror) versus ‘Secretary Clinton’s “aggressive rhetoric.”’ Yes, intelligence community, Secretary Clinton’s insistence on a no-fly zone above Syria, an action which US Generals are adamant would lead to war with nuclear-powered Russia, qualifies as aggressive rhetoric. No need for the dismissive quotes. The report continues:
Moscow’s use of disclosures during the US election was unprecedented, but its influence campaign otherwise followed a longstanding Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, statefunded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.”
By ‘cyber activity,’ the report suggests that hackers such as Guccifer 2.0 obtained access to the DNC over a period of at least a year, and leaked the information it gathered to organizations such as WikiLeaks, which are also alleged to have had ties to the Russian government. The report alleges that Guccifer 2.0 is actually a Russian, and not a Romanian as is claimed.
One of the most important lines in the entire report is as follows:
Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.
In other words, the content that was released by the leaks was true. As for statefunded media, this ‘Russian Propaganda’ section of the report details the efforts of the likes of RT and Sputnik:
Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.
Starting in March 2016, Russian Government– linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences. RT and Sputnik—another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content in a variety of languages for international audiences—consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.
RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism. Some Russian officials echoed Russian lines for the influence campaign that Secretary Clinton’s election could lead to a war between the United States and Russia.
If positive coverage of Trump by Russian media is deemed to have been a factor in nefarious intervention in the US election, then the overwhelming negative coverage of Trump by US media is also such an attempt to influence the election. Consider this chart, obtained from the Washington Post.
This overwhelming negative bias by US media has not been classed as an attempt to install Hillary Clinton as president in the way the converse claim has been, let alone received any closer scrutiny by intelligence agencies.
It was through the leaks themselves that the public learned of the ways in which the media coordinated with the Clinton campaign. Multiple reporters, including Glenn Thrush of Politico and John Harwood of CNBC were caught colluding with the Clinton campaign, allowing it to shape their reporting. Then DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was observed threatening MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski over her coverage of Hillary Clinton.
Despite the report characterizing the paradigm of press as subservient to a corrupt political establishment to be propaganda, the leaks showed that this is exactly what happened.
That comprised about half of the meat of the report. The other half was almost entirely focused on RT specifically, breaking down its political views, TV show lonely, and metrics such as its YouTube and Twitter subscribers.
As mentioned before, there is no hard evidence of any claim made in the report, and many of the claims are conjecture based on inferences and critical interpretations of fact. As discussed before, the leaked information was all true and beyond that, the report also contained this important line, with respect to Russian alleged targeting of US election boards:
DHS assesses that the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.
Again, the information which was leaked was true, and not one vote was tabulated incorrectly.
As such, any media outlet which has used phrases such as ‘Russia hacked the election’ have been deliberately obfuscating fact. The Russians did not change the vote totals, nor did they put any pressure on any individual to vote one way or another.
At the very most, the Russians used their media outlets to express their views on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and beyond this, Russian actors may have leaked pertinent, factual information in that regard. In terms of Russian media, expressing a pro-Trump, or anti-Clinton view is not propaganda as is claimed in the report, but merely expressing a political opinion.
RT or Sputnik have not done any different to the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC or CNN in terms of offering opinionated coverage of the election. If RT can be classed to have ‘influenced’ the election, in the pejorative manner that it has been accused, so too has the NYT and CNN influenced the election in this same manner.
Furthermore, RT and Sputnik together have nowhere near the level of influence over the American voter that the likes of the NYT, WaPo, ABC, NBC, CNN, CBS, the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and Fox do, in total, not to mention foreign outfits such as the BBC, The Guardian, Der Speigel and Al Jazeera. The efforts of that collective favored Hillary Clinton on balance, not Donald Trump. Yet US intelligence and those media outlets themselves are asking the American public to believe that plucky RT and Sputnik outweighed them all, to such a degree that it tipped the scales for Trump.
As for the leaked content, it bears repeating – none of it was false. The intelligence report confirmed it, as did the victims of the leak by not challenging the veracity of the emails themselves. Not one person piped up to say ‘Hey! I didn’t write that!’ Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was forced to resign as DNC chairman owing to the fact that the coordination among the DNC to boost Hillary Clinton at the expense of Bernie Sanders was true.
In short, what these Russian (to the extent that they were Russian) leaks showed was that the DNC and the Clinton campaign were running a corrupt operation, which used the power structure of the Democratic Party to freeze out Bernie Sanders, and tried to use the media power structure to do the same to Donald Trump.
The leaks exposed the fundamentally un-American position Hillary Clinton held with respect to things such as international trade and open borders. It exposed the dubious links between Clinton, her global charity foundation, and favors done for foreign businessman, politicians and other dignitaries, implicating her as using her position as Secretary of State to personally enrich herself selling influence to foreigners.
This was all pertinent information to the American electorate. As such, the media and the intelligence community are in effect saying that it was wrong for the American electorate to know about the duplicitous and perhaps illegal activities engaged by Clinton and her campaign. It is an argument for a less informed electorate.
On top of all of this, the manner in which some of the leaked information was obtained presents another side to the story. It was not mentioned in the report, but it is widely accepted that John Podesta was the victim of a basic phishing attack which compromised his email account. This Vox article explains what happened in further detail. In short, it was Podesta’s incompetence which was more responsible than any other factor for his emails falling in the hands of those that would leak them. It is a relief that the likes of Podesta are no longer in the halls of power on this basis.
This hasn’t stopped the media angst. From the NYT article describing the report (emphasis mine):
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, the nation’s top intelligence agencies said in an extraordinary report they delivered on Friday to Mr. Trump.
The officials presented their unanimous conclusions to Mr. Trump in a two-hour briefing at Trump Tower in New York that brought the leaders of America’s intelligence agencies face to face with their most vocal skeptic, the president-elect, who has repeatedly cast doubt on Russia’s role. The meeting came just two weeks before Mr. Trump’s inauguration and was underway even as the electoral votes from his victory were being formally counted in a joint session of Congress.
Soon after leaving the meeting, intelligence officials released the declassified, damning report that described the sophisticated cybercampaign as part of a continuing Russian effort to weaken the United States government and its democratic institutions. The report — a virtually unheard-of, real-time revelation by the American intelligence agencies that undermined the legitimacy of the president who is about to direct them — made the case that Mr. Trump was the favored candidate of Mr. Putin.
The voluminous, dramatic writing in this, the opening three paragraphs of the article, is amazing when juxtaposed with the ‘substance’ of the report – that showed that Russian media had a favorable opinion of Trump, and that Russian hackers potentially leaked accurate information pertinent to the election. Through Michael Creighton-level spy thriller narration, the media has pyramided this into a tall tale of international espionage, warranting a counter attack of sanctions and perhaps more.
This fiction is intended to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency, just as the report itself. By hyping up the scale of Russian involvement, consistently dropping in phrases like ‘the disruption of our ELECTORAL PROCESS’ to highlight the sanctity of what was done, the media establishes an Us vs Them scenario vis a vis Russia, a country with which we already have priors.
The media then takes the next step and attacks Trump, who has been consistently skeptical of the Russian hacking angle. That the dramatization of the Russian involvement has a shred of truth embedded in it has allowed media pundits to be driven into a frenzy, tripping over themselves to express their shock that ‘Trump is ‘siding’ with a HOSTILE foreign power over US intelligence!!’
What is truly shocking is the fact that the media, and the intelligence community is siding with agitators for war such as McCain and Graham, all because Hillary Clinton, the media’s favored candidate also sided with the warmongers, as discussed before.
It is little wonder why Putin favored Trump – he was the candidate which wants cooperation with Russia. As I’ve discussed before, cooperation with Russia is a non-starter for the globalist influence campaign waged by leftists, which detests the country for its refusal to play ball with American hegemony geopolitically while rejecting imposing Cultural Marxist dogma on its people.
As a result, Russia has been fashioned, incorrectly, as the mortal enemy of the United States once again. Fake news indeed.