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Russia and the United States’ Presidential Election

Despite statements from U.S. intelligence, considering what has been disclosed until July 2017, Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election has been greatly exaggerated and even less than what would be expected.

elections

by Dan Lieberman

The icy look at the Russian Federation has taken a new twist; not only is President Vladimir Putin’s Russia responsible for unnerving and destabilizing Eastern Europe and Syria, antagonists accuse Russia of undermining the 2016 United States presidential election and attempting to destroy faith in the U.S. democratic electoral process. Media have packaged incomplete information, spurious information, and misinformation to portray Russia as a cold, militarist, and aggressive nation, led by a cool, cruel, and calculating tyrant, eager to pounce upon weak and vulnerable neighbors and incorporate them into an expanded Federation. The one-sided rhetoric has several faults ― most of it is unproven, much of it is contradictory, too much arises from personal agendas, and a substantial portion lacks thought and logic.

 (1) Did the Russian government meddle in the U.S. presidential election?

(2) Did Russian efforts change the election?

(3) Did the Russian government attempt to undermine public faith in the US democratic process?   

(4) Is a special counsel required to investigate the meddling charges?

Discussions have followed agendas and agendas never satisfy the discussion. What we hear is not the total facts of the issues.

Did the Russian government meddle in the U.S. presidential election?

Insufficiently by comparison with U.S. interferences in the electoral process of other nations, by what most nations do when military threats confront them, and by what has become accepted standards.

On January 6, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a de-classified report, which asserted that Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered a “massive cyber operation” whose purpose was to help Trump win the election by discrediting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The report also cited “extensive use of social media and trolls, as well as open propaganda on Russian-controlled news platforms.”

Rather harmless activities when compared to using bundles of cash for bribes, physically threatening antagonists, arm-twisting to obtain support, promising rewards for supporters, and even taking military action if the election does not go in the wanted direction, all of which are often used to influence presidential campaigns. Russia’s actions in the U.S. election are not any different from every day activities of many nations ‒ boost your friendly politicos and hack every website you can.

In South Korea, South Vietnam, Philippines, and all through Latin America, reports have documented U.S. direct interference in foreign elections. How did Boris Yeltsin, who had only 8 % of the early polled vote in 1996, manage to reverse course and get elected? Time magazine’s July 15, 1996 story, Yanks to the Rescue, the Secret History of How American Advisors Helped Yeltsin Win, describes how three American political operatives helped Yeltsin beat the odds against him. 

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’, In Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, May 12, 2015, states: "Before speaking publicly, he (ED: special United Nations Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide) whispered to me that while he was only going to say that there was blatant foreign interference in the election (ED: prevent Hamid Karzai from winning in Afghanistan), he wanted me to know he had in mind specifically the United States and Holbrooke."

According to Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, in an article Election Interference? The U.S. Has Done It in 45 Countries Worldwide, Dec 30, 2016 at: http://www.vocativ.com/388500/election-interference-us-45-countries/

Don Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, found that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000. All told, the U.S. allegedly targeted the elections of 45 nations across the globe during this period, Levin’s research shows. In the case of some countries, such as Italy and Japan, the U.S. attempted to intervene in four or more separate elections.

Using a U.S. embassy as the staging ground for influencing has provoked a running joke in Latin America:  

Q: Why has there never been a coup in the United States?
A: Because there is no U.S. embassy in Washington.

Other considerations:

(1) If Russia wanted to obtain derogatory information on Hillary Clinton and use the information to influence the election, why would its agencies think that hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta would yield harmful gossip? Expected from the emails would be mainly campaign strategy, and discussions on "who is dating whom." Could that knowledge influence the election? Hackers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers had no advanced knowledge they would uncover significant emails whose exposure would influence the election. Hacking was routine until the surprises. Hacking Bill and Hillary’s private emails and their Clinton Foundation were more preferred routes to discover conspiracies, and those types of hacking have not been mentioned.

(2) Because it was widely predicted and even conceded that Hillary Clinton would win the election, why would the Russian government waste resources and leave itself open to possible criticism in a losing situation?

(3) Engaged in a confrontation with the United States, which might lead to armed conflict, would not any normal leader of any normal nation try to change a troubling situation by assuring a friendlier and less antagonist leader became president of the United States? Which is more preferable – peaceful means to transition a leader or military means to replace a leader?

Besides hacking, Russia is accused of conducting a malicious disinformation campaign, engineered to sink Hillary Clinton to oblivion. How?

Well, if you read the Newsweek story Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of how Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election by Kurt Eichenwald, January 10, 2017, you will have to accept that everything (which amount to nothing) is “according to reports obtained by Western intelligence.” There are no links to any reports and no insight to who is this Western intelligence; no, not any facts or details, just innuendos and opinions disguised as facts. Anyone wanting to waste his or her time can find the article at: http://www.newsweek.com/trump-putin-russia-interfered-presidential-election-541302

If you want less information, try the Washington Post article, Russian Propaganda Effort Helped Spread ‘fake news’ During Election, Experts say, by Craig Timberg, November 24, 2016

Watts’s report on this work, with colleagues Andrew Weisburd and J.M. Berger, appeared on the national security online magazine War on the Rocks this month under the headline “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.” Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns. (Update: The report came out on Saturday).


Read: Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say


Go to the online magazine War on the Rocks at https://warontherocks.com/2016/11/trolling-for-trump-how-russia-is-trying-to-destroy-our-democracy/ and learn the amazing fact that there are people against U.S. foreign policy.

And the evidence is compelling. A range of activities speaks to a Russian connection: the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials, hacks surrounding voter rolls and possibly election machines, Putin’s overt praise for Trump, and the curious Kremlin connections of Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Carter Page. 

Is this compelling evidence? The everyday hacking of emails, false reports of “hacks surrounding voter rolls and possibly election machines,” that Putin praised Trump (not many votes from the American public for that recommendation), that Paul Manafort, who happened to have had bank accounts during previous years working in Ukraine and invested with a Russian oligarch before he joined Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016, and Carter Page, who seems to have met with some possible Russian operatives several years ago, have “curious Kremlin connections”? Are Kiev and wandering persons close to the Kremlin?

Has it not been revealed that the Clinton Foundation received more than $100 million in contributions from a firm heavily backed by Moscow, which sought control of as much as 20 percent of this country’s uranium reserves? Did not Bill Clinton travel to Russia and receive a half-million-dollar honorarium from the Moscow bank funding the effort for his speech? Did not Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, receive tens of thousands of shares of stock while sitting on the board of a company heavily dependent on Russian financing? All partially true, but containing rumors and selected facts from the complete stories, whose total context reduces the charges to “might be interesting.” Details that expose this disinformation are supplied.

Search the list of campaign advisors, and, assuredly, the list contains a few persons who have had some connection to Iran, Saudi Arabia, or China, all the “good guys,” and probably in the hundreds from the world’s leading disinformation source and influence peddler, the state of Israel.

Go to the Washington Post recommended PropOrNot website and learn that Craig Paul Roberts, former United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under President Reagan in 1981 and a critic of US foreign policy before the Soviet Union became Russia, is a Russian troll, and that the Ron Paul institute, whose Chairman and Founder is former Texas congressman Ron Paul, is also a Russian troll. So are another 15 freethinking organizations that have criticized US foreign endeavors, such as the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the war against Libya. PropOrNot does not seem to know anything about these organizations and, while accusing them of being trolls for Russia, is deliberately trying to silence their legitimate dissent. The Washington Post actually praises this group. How’s that for disinformation?

Facebook and other social media have been used to influence the unwary in all directions ― Hillary, Donald, Chiang Kai-shek, Christopher Columbus and most everyone, living or dead, on the planet. Don’t feel sorry for those who rely on social media for their news.

Excessive mention has been made of the propaganda efforts by Sputnik and RT, English radio and TV broadcast services established by the Russian government and headquartered in Moscow, and their influence on the U.S. voter. The last word could be singular; probably few Americans are familiar with these programs, which are watched by an infinitesimal U.S. audience and mostly composed of those who are already pro-Russian or seek alternative news, which is news that antagonists label as propaganda.

These “disinformation sources” have almost zero impact when compared to what the American public receives from the “liberal establishment” media, the “alt-right” conspirators, and the Republican controlled Fox network, which pours out 24 hour of disinformation, each day of the week and each week of the solar year. 

Did Russian efforts change the election?

Definitely! Trump supporters refuse to acknowledge that leaked airmails from the office of former chairperson for the DNC, Deborah Wasserman Schultz, convinced many Bernie Sanders supporters and others to reject Hillary and vote for Donald. These emails showed that DNC staff discussed means to counter Senator Bernie Sanders’ challenge to Clinton’s candidacy. Congresswoman Schulz used an office that should not favor any candidate to plot against Sanders campaign and more assure Hillary Clinton received the nomination.

Russian hackers are not to blame for the exposure of the DNC’s hypocrisy. They were communicators of important information, which they were surprised to discover. As all good citizens, they submitted the information to WikiLeaks for global transmission. No matter the effect, civic duty demanded revealing the duplicity of Debbie Schulz and her leadership. Made aware of the treachery in the electoral process, the amateur operations of the DNC, the ineptitude of its leadership, and the manipulations by which a sector of the Democratic Party controlled DNC operations, the U.S. electorate responded by changing sufficient votes and transformed Trump’s inevitable defeat into a narrow victory. The Dems removed Debbie Schulz from her position, but a responsible political Party would have not permitted Ms. Schulz from regaining her congressional seat.

Although not proven, it is likely that the hacked DNC emails were decisive in changing the election.

Did the Russian government attempt to undermine public faith in the US democratic process?

Not necessary; the 2016 election did that by itself.

In 2016, the Republican Party nominated a non-Republican, an individual with no political background, despised by a majority of the electorate, distastefully crude, and the worst choice in contesting a Hillary Clinton candidacy.

In 2016, the Democratic Party nominated a candidate despised by a majority of the electorate, and the worst choice in contesting most any Republican candidate. Both established political parties had demonstrated their ineffectiveness in developing new faces that could capture the vote.

Donald Trump did not win an election; he was the preferred candidate of two losers. After the vote was counted, the loser (Hillary Clinton) received 3 million more popular votes than the lesser loser (Donald Trump). Careless actions of the major political Parties, a low level of dialogue, vulgarity of Donald Trump, and the voting anomaly, where the loser had 2% more popular votes than the winner, undermined the public’s faith in the US democratic process.

Is a special counsel required to investigate the meddling charges?

Definitely, and more for Trump’s benefit than for the Democratic Party, as long as he is innocent of any criminal neglect in relations with the Russian government. Without an intensive investigation, charges, rumors, and attacks will cloud and interrupt the Trump administration. If Trump’s campaign is cleared, then he defeats his adversaries; if he is found guilty of a transgression than he deserves the fate he will endure.

Despite statements from U.S. intelligence, from what has been disclosed until July 2017, Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election has been greatly exaggerated and even less than what would be expected. As shown, there was no “massive cyber operation,” whose purpose was to help Trump win the election by discrediting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton; just business as usual and a lucky break. “Extensive use of social media and trolls, as well as open propaganda on Russian-controlled news platforms,” were also the usual opinions from the usual suspects; nothing added to the alternative news.  

Subsequent investigations might expose possible collusion between the Trump campaign organization and Russian government agencies. However, this is a separate issue from the hacking and disinformation campaign issues.

Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. He can be reached at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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