In his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life on Intelligence,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lets loose with a bit of pontification that is neither “fact” nor “truth.” It is nothing more or less than a wild allegation that not a single one of the agencies under his command in the Obama years has (or will) sign onto: That when Russia meddled in the 2016 election, they gave the victory to Donald Trump. But even though Clapper knows full well that he does not have the evidence to back up this extraordinary claim, he still presents this as a fact – not as an opinion – in his book.
“Of course,” he writes, “the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point.”
Does it? Does it really?
Let’s consider. What WERE, exactly, Russia’s alleged crimes in the 2016 election? Let’s see: They hacked into the Democratic National Committee and published a bunch of internal emails on WikiLeaks. They…trolled social media with a bunch of bots. They…hmm…that’s about the long and short of it, no? That’s what the intelligence agencies accuse them of, correct? Does it really stretch “logic, common sense, and credulity” to think that these meager efforts to influence the election came to nothing? We submit that it does not.
It is probably naïve to think that Russia had NO effect on the election; we wouldn’t be surprised if they flipped a vote or two along the way. Even if their efforts kept a few Hillary voters home in November, though, who is really to blame for that? Russia? Or the puppetmasters at the DNC who demonstrated in their emails the kind of contempt they had for any liberal who would even THINK of voting for Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton? Or did Vladimir Putin force the DNC to rig the primaries in Hillary’s favor as well?
You could also argue, quite well, that Russia’s interference COST Trump votes that he would have otherwise gotten. The Russian interference meme was going strong in the last months of the election, and Trump wasn’t going out of his way to distance himself from Moscow. How many Republicans decided that Trump was compromised, based on the constant narrative coming out of HillaryWorld and the mainstream media? How many of THEM stayed home or voted for Evan McMullin (or Mitt Romney’s wife) because of the shadow hanging over the Trump campaign?
It’s a bad idea to make assertions you can’t back up, and it’s an even worse idea when you present yourself as someone who KNOWS the truth. Clapper has done himself no favors by going out on this limb; if anything, he’s given a gift to Putin, whose biggest goal in all of this was to delegitimize American democracy.