Against the hysteria

Michael Anton puts the “treason” hysteria occasioned by President Trump’s Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin in a larger context (in a Wall Street Journal column also posted here on Outline). Going over ground we have trod many times, Anton writes:

[D]oesn’t he have good reason to be cautious about the intelligence community? There’s plenty of evidence of illicit American interference in the 2016 election, all of it to defeat Mr. Trump and elect Hillary Clinton. Yet when Mr. Trump points that out, he’s literally called a traitor—by the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency. John Brennan and James Clapper attack the president in vitriolic terms almost daily. James Comey occasionally chimes in with a Bible quote. They have a First Amendment right to do so. But constantly bashing the president casts doubt on their impartiality and professionalism while in office.

Despite all this, Mr. Trump says he believes their case that Russia meddled in 2016. So do I. But I stress the word “believe.” I don’t know and neither does anyone outside the highest levels of government. Those in the media who hyperventilate every time Mr. Trump is insufficiently emphatic in acknowledging Russian meddling don’t seem to realize he is one of the very few people in the country who’ve actually seen the underlying evidence.

Anton takes up the paucity of information confided to us. Trump DNI Dan Coats has seen it, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have seen it and President Trump could declassify it with the stroke of a pen. Yet it bears noting:

Before last week’s indictments, all the intelligence community had made public was a 14-page unclassified summary that states conclusions but reveals nothing about how they were reached. That’s typical for an unclassified product, but it means the rest of us—including the media—have to take the case on faith. Yet, bizarrely, the media insist they know better than Mr. Trump.

There is more public evidence of American meddling—politicized leaks, gaming a criminal investigation, surveillance of campaign associates, and strings of biased messages by officials—than of Russian. There may be piles of secret evidence of the latter. If so, why not make more of it public? Especially since, as we have been told, acknowledging Russian interference is the patriotic imperative of our time.

From what has been made public, Russian meddling consisted of trolling social media and allegedly hacking Democratic National Committee emails. Information operations are also as old as statecraft…Throughout the Cold War, most Americans not on the left were unaffected by far more aggressive and better-financed Soviet disinformation. But we’re supposed to believe that $10 million spent on Facebook ads and troll farms overcame Mrs. Clinton’s $768 million war chest?…

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