The issue isn’t whether Russia ‘elected’ Trump

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00-anthonyhallThe issue is whether Russia intervened or interfered. Period.

According to the Washington Post, “The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

“Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.”

The real ‘crime’
If the police catch a burglar in your home, you would not demand they show proof that he actually stole something or let him go. The break-in itself (or in this case, the hack) is the thing that should cause alarm and warrant not just outrage, but punishment.

I preempted the CIA’s “secret assessment” in previous commentaries earlier this year. But more importantly, President Obama and Hillary Clinton say this assessment is credible. President-elect Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin say it is incredible, not least because – as Trump exclaimed in his December 10 interview with TIME – “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction… [The hacking] could be Russia. And it could be China.

And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

Doesn’t make sense
No doubt claims about Iraq’s WMDs constitute an open and notorious intelligence failure that will live in infamy. But it’s plainly foolhardy to use that failure to justify mocking and dismissing claims about Russia’s intervention in this presidential election. This is rather like refusing to believe scientific evidence that the world is round because scientists used to claim that it is flat.

We are now entering Trump’s post-fact, post-truth world. His refusal to believe the truth of what no less than 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have found about Russia’s intervention is entirely consistent with his failure to release his tax returns; his efforts to intimidate, undermine, and otherwise curtail the freedom of the press; and his refusal to separate his business interests from his presidential duties and powers.

And he has yet to suffer any negative consequence for denying generally accepted truths or defying norms of presidential behavior, despite the surreality and foreboding inherent in the president-elect of the United States siding with Russia’s FSB (nee KGB) instead of America’s CIA on any question of intelligence.

And don’t get me started on the irony and hypocrisy inherent in him whining about the intelligence community conspiring with Democrats to delegitimize his election. He’s the conspiracy nut who spent the past eight years trying to delegitimize Obama’s presidency – variously insinuating that Obama was not born in the USA (aka the “birther” madness) and that his Harvard degree is a fraud.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Trump’s political values are more akin to those of Vladimir Putin than Barack Obama (or any previous president). And Trump is assembling a cabinet that seems designed more to appease Russia than to “Make America Great Again.”

Just wait
Incidentally, it won’t be long before the antic “bromance” between Trump and Putin has its day of reckoning. Because, like the scorpion that stings the frog, it’s simply Putin’s nature (stemming from long-simmering superpower envy) to provoke confrontations with U.S. presidents — as George W. Bush soon realized and as I presaged in commentaries going back to 2005.

The world should be afraid, be very afraid, when that moment comes, whether in the form of Putin’s military incursions in Eastern Europe or the Baltic States, or the mere flexing of his military muscles on the high seas or throughout the Middle East. Trump, who premised his presidency on being the strongest and smartest SOB on the world stage, is bound to overreact — not to defend America so much as to save his own (orange) face.

An equally ominous day of reckoning seems in store for Trump’s blustering blather with respect to China.

All the same, there’s no denying that this post-fact, post-truth buffoon was duly elected president of the United States. Which moved me to exclaim the morning after: “WTF! President-elect Donald J. Trump?! America. What. Have. You. Done?”

All that’s left to be said is that you made your bed, America…

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.

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