January 16, 2017

Sidebar: Sunday School 1/15/17

In yesterday's Sunday School post, I noted that Reince Priebus made some comments on both Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulos about Congressman John Lewis. Lewis, you'll recall, announced his personal belief that Donald Trump is not a 'legitimate' president because of the Russian interference and its impact on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Here's what Priebus said
..John Lewis stood up and said in an interview that Donald Trump was not a legitimate president. It's insanity. And it's wrong. And DNI director Clapper said as much many, many times, that there is no evidence any outcome of the election was changed. 
A couple of things came to mind as I read that comment.  Clapper has been clear that there was Russian interference, but equally clear that there was no foreign tampering with ballots or vote counts, and that it would be very difficult to measure the impact of the interference and the publication of leaked information from Clinton campaign officials on people's votes.

Earlier this month, for example, in response to a question from Arizona Senator John "Loser" McCain, Clapper noted
We had no way of gauging the impact that - certainly the intelligence community cannot gauge the impact - it (Russian cyber activities) had on the choices the electorate made. 
Equally true, though, is that the intelligence report that was delivered first to President Obama and then to Trump, noted the following:
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency (emphasis added). We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
And while Priebus and Kellyanne Conway and others on the Trump Train try and distract from the actual intelligence report, and focus on their mantra that there is no evidence the outcome was changed, Donald Trump the candidate thought the information that resulted from the hacking was very important - dare I say, bigly important.

According to an analysis published by ThinkProgress, in the last month of the campaign,
Trump spoke about the Wikileaks  emails at least 164 times from October 10 to election day, saying the word Wikileaks 124 times. That means, on average, Trump discussed Wikileaks more than five times per day. 
More than five times a day. At least one hundred and sixty four mentions in less than a month. But it had no impact on the election, don't be silly. No influence on anyone's decision, didn't change a thing, nope, not at all. Nothing to see here, folks, step away from the illegitimacy.

Here are excerpts from some of his comments, all made between October 10th and October 15th of last year.

  • Wikileaks is amazing. The stuff that's coming out, it shows she's a real liar.
  • Wikileaks, some new stuff, some brutal stuff. I mean I'd read it to you but to hell with it, trust me it's real bad stuff.
  • No one who supports open borders should be able to run for president because we won’t have a country.... Because in the Wikileaks it was all about open borders.
  • Wikileaks, I love Wikileaks... Let’s see. During a speech crooked Hillary Clinton, oh she’s crooked folks. She’s crooked as a three-dollar bill. Okay here’s one. Just came out. ‘Lock her up’ is right. 
  • It’s just the latest evidence of the hatred that the Clinton campaign really has for everyday Americans and you see, and you see so much from these Wikileaks. 
  • I’ll tell you this Wikileaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it...
  • And one of the big advantages of me having a rather large microphone, and meaning a lot of people are listening, is that I can talk about Wikileaks...
  • She would be the most dishonest and the most corrupt person ever elected to high office. The Wikileaks emails show the Department of Justice fed information to Clinton...
  • The sad part is we don’t talk about Wikileaks because it’s incredible. But Wikileaks just came out with a lot of new ones...
  •  It also comes at a time as Wikileaks unveils horrible, horrible things about Hillary Clinton...
  • And by the way, Wikileaks came out with lots of really unbelievable things. Just minutes ago. In fact, I almost delayed this speech by about two hours, it’s so interesting. But I decided you’re more important than anybody, okay? It’s all a big, beautiful fraud...

I suppose it's possible that none of this mattered, this leaked information that is believed to have been fed to Wikileaks by the Russians or people associated with them. Julian Assange has denied Russian involvement; naturally, Trump has quoted Assange and Vladimir Putin as reliable deniers, so we have that out there, in contrast to what our own intelligence officials have staid.

Regardless of who fed Wikileaks the info, Trump's repeated references to it indicate he was pretty sure it was helpful, and pretty sure it could help influence how people voted. I believe that's a reasonable outcome, even if not a measurable one.

It doesn't mean that Clinton would have won - but it sure doesn't help Trump's case that the leaks were meaningless and without influence.