Trump secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson appears with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
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If in fact Russia acted to sway the U.S. presidential election, then yes that is without a doubt a very serious matter.
The U.S. intelligence community reports at the center of the allegations are being met with a significant degree of skepticism by critics of the agencies authoring them.
The CIA, FBI, NSA and DHS get paid to lie. Deceptions large and small are endemic to their day-to-day method. They defend such tactics as essential to doing their jobs and defending the nation. In addition, the documents placed in the public record by Edward Snowden contradicted categorically all assurances U.S. intelligence has given government watchdogs and the public for decades that their actions did not violate the Constitution. As a result the intelligence community now struggles for credibility at a moment when they seem most to need it.
As the discussion turns to interference in the political affairs of a nation, any nation, including the United States, the U.S. is outrageously guilty of ruthlessly dominating the political affairs of other nations with the active support of the very intelligence agencies now sounding these alarms.
There is just one problem and one thing that sets this situation apart: the scope and very public nature of these intelligence community disclosures are completely without precedent in the nation's history, and while the U.S. government and its intelligence arms may be too guilty to speak, the American people and the international community have the right and standing to know if the Russian government has influenced the American presidential election.
There has been no point whatsoever in U.S. history when there has been unified public consensus by all U.S. intelligence players that anything even remotely like the hacking of a U.S. presidential election has taken place. Anyone who tells you that they "have seen this before" is misleading you or themselves, because it's never happened before.
Moreover, these assertions come on the eve of the very individual whom the intelligence agencies allege benefited from the foreign interference being inaugurated as president of the United States. Clearly the intelligence agencies are sounding an alarm. To completely ignore that alarm invites catastrophe.
The second point of objection to the Russian interference issue is, "So what? There is no proof that it affected the outcome of the election." True, there is no empirical or forensic evidence, in the public realm, to prove what voters were thinking when they cast their votes -- or did not cast them, as the case may be.
It is, however, a red herring argument to begin with, because knowing what is in the mind of individual voters is an unachievable standard in any case. So that cannot be the fault of the intelligence agencies, however flawed they may be.
There are, however, droves of circumstantial evidence. Consider Donald Trump's own words on the issue, in the final weeks of the campaign:
"Boy, that Wikileaks has done a job on her, hasn't it?"
"Wikileaks, I love Wikileaks. And I said write a couple of them down. Let's see. During a speech crooked Hillary Clinton, oh she's crooked folks. She's crooked as a 3-dollar bill. Okay here's one. Just came out -- lock her up is right."
While that still doesn't prove that any individual voter's decision was affected by the email releases, it absolutely proves that Donald Trump was willing to encourage the leaks and happy to benefit from them. That makes him an active participant and an informed party to the action.
The third argument is that the Russian election hacking issue is a distraction from the real problem, namely that the Democratic Party needs reform. Or that the Democrats should blame themselves, not the Russians.