Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Russia also hacked GOP, yet kept that data secret


The U.S. intelligence community has concluded with "high confidence" that the Russian government succeeded in hacking into computer and email systems at both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, according to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

However, intelligence experts say, Russia leaked no data acquired from its Republican targets because doing so would have harmed its goal of electing Donald J. Trump as president. The professionals at the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI, reached these startling conclusions as far back as September, but when asked to form a bipartisan public front to protest this foreign intrusion, Republican leaders in Congress balked. As a result, the findings were not made public prior to the election.

The contrast between the secrecy in which these investigative findings were held and the public airing of the Clinton email investigation is interesting to say the least. However, the response of the Trump transition team to this extraordinary turn of events, printed here in its entirety, is even more revealing:

I just find that utterly remarkable and even contemptible.

U.S. intelligence experts seem pretty convinced about their finding, and given its gravity it's not a conclusion they would reach lightly. However, even if Trump honestly believes that U.S. intelligence agencies have not proved their case, as president-elect of the United States and as an American patriot, he ought to be deeply troubled by even the possibility that an unfriendly foreign power had dared to meddle in our elections. He ought to be pledging to join President Obama and Congress in fully investigating the possibility, if for no other reason than to clear away doubt and suspicion that will otherwise cloud his presidency.

Instead, the statement evinces not the least bit of concern or even curiosity about whether the intelligence agencies might be correct. The Trump team doesn't want to know, and it doesn't want the rest of us to know either. It asks us to consider last month's election as ancient, dust-covered history, offers no condemnation of Russia, and instead demands a complete and utter dismissal of the issue: "Move along, folks, there's nothing to see here. Keep moving, keep moving."

The problem is that as we keep moving, we see the Wall Street Journal reporting this morning that Trump's top candidate to be secretary of State is now Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. And what is Mr. Tillerson's great appeal?

As the WSJ reports:

"Among those considered for the post, Mr. Tillerson has perhaps the closest ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having negotiated a 2011 energy partnership deal with Russia that Mr. Putin said could eventually be worth as much as $500 billion. In 2012, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.

This pre-existing relationship with Mr. Putin complements Mr. Trump’s push to improve U.S.-Russia ties. A number of Republicans have urged him to be wary of working closely with Russia, warning that it is trying to expand its influence in a way that runs counter to U.S. interests in places such as Ukraine and Syria....

As Exxon’s CEO, Mr. Tillerson has spoken against sanctions on Russia. Mr. Tillerson’s work there dates to when Mr. Putin rose to power after Boris Yeltsin’s resignation.

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¹ Let's address the bamfoozlement, because it should not be allowed to go unchallenged. Trump lost by 2.7 million votes in the popular vote, and his 74-vote margin in the electoral college is by no stretch of the Trumpian imagination "one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history." By historic standards the margin is puny, and any claim to the contrary is what is called a lie.

In his two election victories, for example, Barack Obama won by electoral college margins of 126 votes and 192 votes. Ronald Reagan won by margins of 440 and 512 electoral votes. As a percentage of the total available electoral votes, Trump's 74-vote margin ranks 46th of the 58 presidential elections held to date.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.