President-elect Donald Trump was briefed today by senior intelligence officials who laid out their case regarding Russian cyber-intrusion into American politics, especially the recent presidential election. After the meeting, Trump acknowledged that Russia hacked the Democrats. He also said that Russia attempted to hack the Republicans. Here is his statement:
I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation.
While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.
Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office. The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.
What’s important here is not Trump’s claim that hacking had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.” Although that claim is very likely true — the WikiLeaks contained nothing like a smoking gun about Hillary Clinton; to the disappointment of some Republicans, they consisted mostly of insider gossip of no interest to the public-at-large — it doesn’t much matter at this point.
What’s important is Trump’s acknowledgement of the Russian hacking and his pledge to “aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks,” beginning with the appointment of a team to give him a plan within 90 days of taking office.
Will Trump follow through or just go through the motions? I don’t know. But if Trump is serious — and why wouldn’t he be serious about a threat of this magnitude once he becomes president? — I’m confident that he will act more effectively and decisively than President Obama ever has.
That’s a low bar, though. From all that appears, Obama’s response to Russian cyber-intrusion has been pathetic. He could barely be bothered until evidence of such intrusion gave him a chance to try and undermine his successor’s legitimacy.
When it comes to punching back against a foreign power that tries to harm America (as opposed to a staunch ally like Israel), there is plenty of reason to believe that Trump will punch harder than Obama.
UPDATE: The mainstream media’s coverage of Trump’s reaction following his meeting with intelligence officials has been quite dishonest. USA Today claims that “Trump still questions intelligence on Russia hacking after briefing.” But nothing in its story, or in Trump’s statement, supports this assertion.
USA Today cites Trump’s statement that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.” Whatever one thinks of this statement, it certainly does not “question intelligence on Russian hacking.” The intelligence report declines to assess what impact, if any, Russian hacking had on the election.
CNN is just as sleazy. Its headline asserts that “Trump downplays Russian meddling in election despite intel report.” It then says “President-elect Donald Trump downplayed Russia’s role in the election after a briefing with top US intelligence officials, even as a declassified report of their conclusions pointed definitively at Vladimir Putin.”
But all Trump “downplayed” in his statement was the notion that Russian meddling had an effect on the outcome of the election. This is not remotely inconsistent with the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin was involved.
During his program tonight, CNN’s hyper-partisan Don Lemon went so far as to accuse Trump of lying about the report. He twice claimed that Trump’s insistence that hacking had no impact on the outcome is a lie because the intelligence report didn’t say this. But, of course, Trump didn’t cite the report. He simply expressed his opinion.
He might be right, he might be wrong (there’s no way to tell for sure), but he didn’t lie.
No wonder Trump rarely uses the word “media” without putting the word “dishonest” in front of it. The mainstream media should consider itself branded.