Let's begin with this: Does alleged Russian electoral meddling that may have benefitted Donald Trump delegitimize his victory? No. As others have pointed out, Moscow didn't force Hillary Clinton to spend more campaign time and dollars in Arizona and Nebraska than Michigan or Wisconsin over the home stretch. The Kremlin didn't compel Democrats to nominate a woman who was -- reportedly still is -- under active FBI investigation. Vladimir Putin didn't personally manipulate voters into perceiving Mrs. Clinton as unlikeable and untrustworthy, reputations she's richly earned over decades in the public spotlight. Hillary Clinton is responsible for Hillary Clinton's loss, and efforts to pin the blame on outside actors like the FBI Director (who would never have been a factor in the campaign if not for her egregious misconduct and series of shameless lies) or a foreign government amounts to ex post facto scapegoating. Blame shift may be a powerful coping mechanism, but it practically guarantees that important lessons will go unheeded. With those important reality checks in place, partisan tribalism should not prevent Republicans from backing a thorough and complete Congressional investigation into whether or not the Russian government sought to influence our presidential election, whether through the leaking of hacked emails, or in any other manner. Foreign interference in our process is unacceptable, and if Russia is guilty, that is a pertinent fact that our policymakers and the American people deserve to know. If you're not sure how you feel about this, honestly consider the hypothetical "shoe on the other foot" scenario for ten seconds, and imagine how conservatives would respond to credible allegations that the Russians were actively helping the Democrats. Then imagine if it weren't so hypothetical.
President-elect Donald Trump's reaction to the CIA's assessment on this front has been flippant and wrong-headed. While it's true that our intelligence community has gotten some big things wrong over the years -- from the "slam dunk" on WMDs in Iraq to the discredited, political 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran -- Trump's statement reads like a reactionary and casual smear. Rather than dismissing apparent evidence of Russian interference as "ridiculous," Trump should have asserted that of course the "America First" president is opposed to any hint of foreign subterfuge designed to impact the results of a free and fair American election -- and that he supports a bipartisan inquiry to unearth the truth. But he could have also noted that there are divergent opinions on key aspects of the allegations, such as whether Russians managed to hack the RNC in addition to the DNC (the CIA says yes, the FBI says no) -- and added that even if Moscow did attempt to tip the scales, he won a broad-based electoral college victory because of his resonant economic message, strong enthusiasm for his campaign, and his opponent's myriad flaws and failures. In other words, if Trump's hostile reaction to this controversy is fueled by the understandable desire to beat back the implication that his election win is tainted or illegitimate (as is certainly the case for some pushing the story), he could pursue that argument without making it seem as though he's somehow afraid of the truth. Instead, he's baselessly stating that he doesn't think Russia was behind the hacking, which flies in the face of the joint assessment of the CIA and FBI -- who part ways on Russia's motive, not its culpability.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been more responsible in his responses, perhaps because he actually takes his obligation to receive important security briefings seriously, unlike his running mate. So far, at least. House Speaker Paul Ryan is also right to decry any possibility of foreign influence on our elections, and to admonish against the politicizing of intelligence on this front. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went a bit further, bluntly and correctly stating some important truths. He expressed confidence in the US intelligence community, stated that the Russians "are not our friends," and voiced his support for a bipartisan investigation into new findings:
To clear up any media-caused confusion, McConnell is opposed to a new special committee to pursue this probe, but he supports the probe itself, expressing confidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee's ability to conduct a professional and detailed review. I'll leave you with this poor journalism from the New York Times, whose editors foolishly scolded Mitt Romney for his clarity on Russia four years ago, which conflates two issues. If the Left is concerned with "fake news," maybe the so-called Paper of Record shouldn't be publishing misleading information that may lead voters to wrongly conclude that Russians hacked the actual election results:
Crucial reminder -- the election was not hacked:
US intel agencies didn't detect any malicious cyberactivity "that interfered w the casting and counting of ballots" on Nov. 8 @PressSec— Juliet Eilperin (@eilperin) December 12, 2016