The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
I'm trying to imagine what Republicans would do in this situation if the parties were reversed. Before the election I predicted that Republicans might not accept a Hillary Clinton victory as legitimate, even one under far less suspicious circumstances than Trump's win. Forget the Russians -- if a Clinton victory had been predicated on 100,000 votes in three states, especially (but not necessarily) if she'd lost the overall popular vote, Republicans en masse would be shouting "Voter fraud!" Quite a few would be demanding that Democratic electors refuse to vote for her.
Could they actually have kept her from the White House if the electors went ahead and voted for her? They would have a means to do so. The question is whether they would have used it:
Since 1887, 3 U.S.C. 15 sets the method for objections to electoral votes. During the Joint Session, Members of Congress may object to individual electoral votes or to state returns as a whole. An objection must be declared in writing and signed by at least one Representative and one Senator. In the case of an objection, the Joint Session recesses and each chamber considers the objection separately in a session which cannot last more than two hours with each Member speaking for no more than five minutes. After each house votes on whether or not to accept the objection, the Joint Session reconvenes and both chambers disclose their decisions. If they agree to the objection, the votes in question are not counted. If either chamber does not agree with the objection, the votes are counted.I think there would have been Republican challenges to some of Clinton's electors. I suspect the party leadership would have decided in advance that it would do too much political damage to the GOP to use this means to actually deny Clinton the presidency. But who knows? In any case, I think the challenges would have happened, just to ensure that Clinton entered the White House under a cloud of suspicion.
And if Republicans were the minority party in Congress, and couldn't simply ratify Electoral College objections, then I think they'd have made them anyway, just to engender that suspicion.
That's what Democrats should do this year, at a minimum: They should formally challenge Trump electoral votes in every Republican state, citing the Russian hack. They should talk about this in every media forum. They should say that they'll reluctantly accept Trump's presidency if the Electoral College chooses him, but they don't consider this a legitimate election. I don't think that there's much more a minority party in Congress can do.
If you consider me too pessimistic, and believe that the Electoral College can still save us, then I'd say this is the time for prominent Democrats to say, repeatedly and with message discipline, that electors in Republican states must vote for the popular-vote winner and target of a foreign power's election skulduggery, Hillary Clinton -- not Kasich or Mitt Romney or Ronald Reagan's corpse. The patriotic choice is Clinton.
If enough prominent Democrats say this, maybe it will be seen as a legitimate, within-the-pale response to the situation. Right now, except on the left, it isn't seen that way.
I don't think it will work. For decades, heartland Americans have accepted the notion that the patriotic, good-of-the-country party is always the GOP; Democrats are the party of anti-Americanism and even treason. That's an idea that's been taught to Americans by a succession of Republic leaders, from Joe McCarthy to Goldwater to Nixon to Reagan to Limbaugh and Ailes. That's why I think it's so difficult for the country to wrap its mind around what's really happening.
UPDATE: I'd like to elaborate on what I said in that last paragraph. The Post story tells us that the Obama administration proceeded cautiously when presented with this information during the campaign. Officials presented members of Congress with evidence of Russian interference, but Mitch McConnell chose party over country, as usual:
The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.President Obama is being criticized for this:
According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.
Hate to say, but this story tonite is final proof that BHO's perception of the nature of his political opposition has been, at best, naive.— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) December 10, 2016
But I agree with Josh Marshall:
1: I think people are being unfair/unrealistic re Obama's role publicizing Russia role. a) They publicly stated this before the election.— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 10, 2016
2: For anyone who had their eyes open this was crystal clear. It was discussed with the press and then there was an official IC statement...— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 10, 2016
3: saying Russia was behind this. b) We are rightly very wary of the current government taking steps to influence the election. More ...— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 10, 2016
4: forceful accusations that Russia was assisting Trump by the sitting President wld have sparked a shitstorm beyond all imagination.— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) December 10, 2016
Howard Wolfson has tweeted:
Emails found on Anthony Weiner's computer? Tell the world. Russians trying to elect Donald Trump? Sweep it under the rug.— howard wolfson (@howiewolf) December 10, 2016
But this gets back to the idea of Republicans as the party of patriotism and Democrats as the party of anti-Americanism. Go public in the heat of a campaign with unfounded allegations harmful to the Democratic candidate? That's just patriotism, because it's always legitimate to be suspicious of Democrats, whose mission in life is to deliberately harm America. Go public with allegations that hurt the Republican? You're subverting democracy! I'm sorry, but this is what much of heartland America believes. The GOP is poised at all times to push a narrative of that kind, and the Democrats aren't poised to do the opposite. The mainstream media accepts that GOP allegations are legitimate. Democrats don't get the same benefit of the doubt, even from the so-called liberal media.
When pro-Trumpers in the FBI pushed the email story back into the news cycle in late October, the emails were the story. If the Obama administration had made more of a stink about Russian interference, his "partisanship" would have been the story. Regrettably, that's just how it works.