Putin’s 2016 intentions

As John noted earlier this evening, the House Intelligence Committee has completed its investigation into Russia’s activities in connection with the 2016 election. The Committee says it found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.

No one else has found any such evidence, either. Even anti-Trump reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, both friends of Glenn Simpson, have none to offer in their new book Russian Roulette.

As John also noted, the Committee went on to reject the conclusion, reached by the “Intelligence Community,” that Vladimir Putin was trying to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. The House Committee, reviewing the same evidence, agreed that Russia interfered, but not that the purpose of the interference was to help Trump win.

It seems clear that at least one of Putin’s purposes was to hurt our democracy by promoting chaos, dissension, and a general lack of faith in the electoral process. In this, Putin has succeeded.

I don’t think that anyone outside the Kremlin knows which candidate, if either, Putin wanted to win. We do know that some instances of Russia’s interference tilted towards Trump and/or against Clinton, while others tilted the other way. From what I gather, more of it fell in the first category than the second.

Would this mean Putin favored Trump? No. Putin might well have devoted more effort to attacking Clinton because he thought she would win, and thus that he would get more bang for his destabilizing buck by discrediting her. Indeed, if Putin favored Trump, there’s a good chance that zero percent of the Russian effort would have tilted towards Clinton and against Trump.

In the end, the question of whom Putin favored is difficult to detach from one’s view of the candidates. If you like Clinton, you probably will have a hard time believing Putin could have favored her. If you like Trump, you probably will have a hard time believing Putin could have favored him.

I don’t like either Clinton or Trump (though I favor Trump between the two). I think I can make a plausible case for Putin wanting Clinton to be president and a plausible case for him wanting Trump.

What was his real preference? I have no clear idea. The Intelligence Committee probably doesn’t either, which is why it was wise to reject the conclusion that Putin favored Trump.

I agree with John that the ball is in the court of the committee’s Democrats. It’s time for them to show us what, if anything, they’ve got. Put up or (and this is just a fantasy) shut up.


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