Commentary: On Russian hacking, it’s jump-to-conclusions vs. wait-and-see

Byron York

Byron York

President-elect Trump stirred yet more controversy Saturday night when, as he entered his New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, he said he is not convinced the intelligence community is sure about allegations Russian hackers sought to influence the election.

“I just want them to be sure, because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Trump told reporters, “and I want them to be sure.”

The next morning, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, scoffed at Trump’s statement. “This is the overwhelming judgment of the intelligence community and, frankly, all of the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, Democrats and Republicans,” Schiff said on ABC Sunday. “None of us have any question about this. The only one who does apparently is Donald Trump.”

That is not the case. There are, in fact, members of the intelligence committees who do have questions about this. Yes, many Republicans believe Russian hackers tried to mess with the U.S. presidential campaign in some way, mostly because they believe Russian hackers are always trying to mess with U.S. systems and institutions.

But when it comes to solid information on precisely what was done, and on evidence of motives, many Hill Republicans are mostly in the dark -- because the intelligence community has kept them there.

Remember that before Christmas the intelligence community refused to brief the House Intelligence Committee, telling lawmakers they can wait until intel officials finish the investigation ordered by President Obama. In response, House committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes argued that the Director of National Intelligence was “obligated to comply” with a House request, and that the committee was “deeply concerned” by the DNI’s “intransigence.”

The intelligence community’s response: Fuhgeddaboudit.

So the wait to learn more goes on. Meanwhile, a number of Democrats are arguing that the evidence is so overwhelming that Congress must establish a special investigating committee, even though there will already be multiple investigations of the Russia matter in the standing committees of Congress.

“Elections and the peaceful transfer of power are the foundational elements of our democracy,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “They have been attacked and undermined by the world’s most destabilizing major power.”

“An attack against our election system is an attack on our very way of life and must not go unchallenged,” added Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The argument is taking place in the context of deep distrust of the intelligence community among some Republicans. Some GOP lawmakers believe the IC has been -- to put it diplomatically -- less than forthcoming about Benghazi, intelligence concerning the Islamic State, and intel concerning Osama bin Laden. Already wary, they became more so when the IC refused to brief the House about the Russia affair.

There’s a greater context, as well. Many times during the campaign, Trump declared the Iraq War a “big, fat mistake.” At Mar-a-Lago, Trump referenced the intelligence debacle that led to the war. “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,” Trump said. “And so I want them to be sure.”

Now, some of the same people who in 2002 and 2003 pushed for war based on erroneous intelligence -- Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are two -- are pushing to take a hard line on Russia. It’s no surprise that some Republicans -- lawmakers who have no illusions about Russia and its hacking in the past -- want to see more evidence before going all-in on the new allegations. At the very least, they want to know what the intelligence community knows before signing off on a special congressional investigation of the hacking.

Trump is scheduled to meet with members of the Hill intelligence committees this week. “The president-elect needs to sit down with the heads of the intelligence communities ... and get a full briefing on what they knew, why they knew it, whether or not the Obama administration’s response was in proportion to the actions taken,” spokesman Sean Spicer said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Trump himself is signaling there’s more to the story that he knows but the public doesn’t. “I know a lot about hacking,” he said Saturday night. “And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.


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Deva1961 1 week, 3 days ago

The best way to get questions answered is to thoroughly investigate. Supposedly, we'll get some answers next week when a report prepared by the CIA, FBI and NSA is set to be released. Frankly, I find those people, on the whole, to be rather more believable than Trump. His more than cozy ties to Russia are well known. He admits to that himself. The very possibility that Russia, or any foreign power, might interfere with our election process is horrifying. And I can't help but think, if the tables had been turned and Clinton received help from Putin, how deafening the outcry would be. And rightly so!


lostone1413 1 week ago

A report prepared by the CIA the FBI and NSA? You know that will be the truth and nothing but the truth LOL


Deva1961 1 week, 3 days ago

correction: the report was released today, January 6 2017.

read it, and weep for America. I am.


nutso_fasst 1 week, 1 day ago

I read the DNI's report.

OMG! A Russian news organization editorialized in favor of Trump over Clinton! "Eeek, Eeek," I screamed, imagined tears rolling down my cheeks.

Then I recalled that the LATimes, WaPo, NYTimes, and other corporatist mouthpieces editorialized against the UK's Brexit referendum, while our globalist president publicly threatened UK citizens with dire consequences if they voted "yes."

That recollection would've brought tears in earnest if Obama's threat hadn't helped pass Brexit. Now I'll have to wait and see if the global corporatists who financed Clinton are able to negate the Brexit election result.


Deva1961 1 week ago

Can you post a link to that part about Obama making threats?

As to the rest...voter apathy hits an all-time high, when not even interference by a hostile foreign nation gets more than a yawn. Sad!


nutso_fasst 1 week ago

Try "obama threatens brexit" on Google. About 946,000 results to choose from. If you can't find one that suits you, try Bing. 1,610,000 results there. If you must hear it "from the horse's mouth," YouTube will give you about 44,200 videos.

Hope this helps.


Deva1961 6 days, 18 hours ago

I went to the Daily Mail UK website. According to them, Brits were mad about Obama telling them they'd be moved "to the back of the queue" when it came to trade negotiations with the US, should they vote to leave the EU. Last I noticed, America still had the ability to decide who we'd do business with, and who not to.

Sorry, but that is in no way equivalent to a foreign government, or that government's hired hacks, interfering with another nation's election processes. Obama said something that ticked them off. It's not like he "threatened" them with bombs being dropped on them if they choose to ignore him. Which, you may recall, an ultra-nationalist, wealthy pal of Putin did in regards to our election. He said quite bluntly, if we elected Hillary, Russian would send nukes. Bottom line- our PEOTUS is taking sides in this. And he's not siding with the American People. And that is treason.


nutso_fasst 6 days, 8 hours ago

Ah, so "if you don't do what I tell you, you'll suffer" is not a threat, it's a promise, yes? Whichever, it's certainly hubris.

I appreciate being made aware of the "promise" from Vladimir Zhirinovsky. I somehow missed that story, but perhaps that's because it only gets 17,100 Google results and most of those are little read or foreign news sources. I note that Zhirinovsky has also "promised" to bomb Poland and the Baltic states into oblivion, annex Afghanistan and the Middle East, and take back Alaska from the United States. Maybe he didn't get much news coverage because no one took him seriously.


Deva1961 5 days, 20 hours ago

The Russians DID hack American computers, and interfere with our election. IT DID Happen. Not just a threat. Yuuuuuuge difference!


nutso_fasst 5 days, 11 hours ago

Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.


Deva1961 4 days, 23 hours ago

Even you must know that Ukraine is not Russia. And Russia was not attempting to sabotage Trump. Quite the opposite. If you have a problem with Ukraine trying to sabotage Trump, how can you be okay with Russia doing the same thing to Clinton? I have a big problem with both.

Your PEOTUS claims that Putin liking him is a "good thing". He now admits that Russia did in fact work to discredit Clinton, by spreading rumors, lies, and selectively releasing emails. Are you so naive to think they don't also have dirt on Trump, held in reserve against the day they need to bring him back in line? How can you (or any American) be okay with Russia (or any foreign nation) meddling with our election? Do you even remember how very anti-Russia, anti-Communism the Republican party once was? I used to be a Republican myself. I voted for Reagan because he seemed unwilling to take crap from Russia. Ronnie must be turning in his grave right now.