This weekend, we learned that nearly all of our intelligence agencies concur that the Russian government mounted a covert operation of cyberattacks to help Trump win the election. A natural expectation would be for Congressional Republicans to circle the wagons and deny it all, like Trump did (see below). But they didn’t. They want hearings. They want investigations. They want answers. And they aren’t blaming Democrats.
The Trump response to the intelligence findings.
This weekend the New York Times and Washington Post broke the news from sources within the intelligence community that they concluded with “high confidence” that Russia interfered with the 2016 election to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Donald Trump win. This isn’t conjecture by the way. Intelligence sources have told the Times that they have identified the Russian government individuals who oversaw the hacking. While the sources didn’t tie these operations to Putin himself, they did say the cyberattacks were ordered by senior officials within the Russian government.
The Trump transition team issued an unsigned statement almost immediately. “These are the same people that said Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.'”
Trump already doubled down on his blanket denial of Russian involvement during his interview with Time for Person of the Year. But he tripled down on Sunday while talking to Chris Wallace on Fox News, calling the intelligence conclusions “ridiculous.” “I don’t believe it,” he said, adding “every week it’s another excuse. We had massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”
No, Mr. Trump, you did not. In short, the President-Elect has won 37 out of all 58 elections with more electoral votes than Trump. Reagan beat Carter in a true landslide (489 to 49) in 1980, and then again against Mondale (525 to 130). George H. W. Bush had a landslide of 426 to 111 against Dukakis. Trump’s win is barely average. Just another one of his self-aggrandizing, blatant, and pathological lies. Trump also told Wallace in that interview that he is a smart guy and doesn’t need regular intelligence briefings. But we digress.
All in all, we shouldn’t be surprised that Trump is vigorously rejecting (and insulting) the consensus report of 16 intelligence agencies. Because he looked straight into the camera on July 27 and urged Russia to hack us and find Clinton’s deleted personal emails, during a late-July campaign stop in Florida.
Many Republicans believe Russia was behind the cyberattacks and are calling for action.
Predictably, a few pundits instinctively issued blanket denials. RNC Spokesman Sean Spicer lashed out on CNN, “what proof does anyone have that they affected the outcome? Because I’ve heard zero. OK? So show me what facts have actually shown that anything undermined that election.”
He doesn’t seem to understand what it means for information to be classified. Actually that’s not surprising, considering how much time the RNC spent trying to convince Americans that all the personal emails Clinton deleted were classified.
But google “Republican response Russian hacking 2016 election” (or anything like it) and you will not see much support for Trump’s position from lawmakers. On the contrary, the New York Times reports that “the Republicans who lead the congressional committees overseeing intelligence, the Pentagon, and the Department of Homeland Security take the opposite view. They say that Russia was behind the election meddling, but the scope and intent of the operation need deep investigation, hearings and public reports.”
Devin Nunes (R-CA), Peter King (R-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and are all on record agreeing. Nunes is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, King is a member of that committee, and McCaul is Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. McCaul has also promised hearings. He told the Heritage Foundation “Russia’s recent hacks and attacks should be a wake-up call and a call to action. There needs to be consequences to these actions… We can’t allow foreign governments to interfere in our democracy, and when they do so we must call them out on it and respond forcefully, publicly, and decisively.”
CNN reports that a bipartisan groups of senators has called for an immediate probe. Joining Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jack Reed (D-RI), the Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wrote in a statement:
While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society. Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks.
While this article was going to press, senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared his support for congressional investigations. “This can not be a partisan issue,” he said during a brief statement.
Speaking to the Times, former N.S.A and C.I.A. director Michael Hayden, who served under George W. Bush, said that “to have the President-Elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions — wow.”
Wow is right.
In our new ultra-partisan world of endless cynicism, we’re used to Congress and the public gleefully denying the reality of their own political scandals, while endlessly beating the proverbial dead horse for even the slightest hint of a misstep by their political foes. Think all the hearings by House Republicans on Benghazi that never turn up anything new.
Frankly, we look forward to Congressional investigations and hearings. After listening to Trump endlessly swear that Hillary Clinton was plotting the destruction of U.S. sovereignty, it will be refreshing to see the Republican lawmakers fulfill their sworn constitutional duty rather than kowtowing to an ideological ignoramus.