There’s at least one conclusion on which there’s largely bipartisan agreement: Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. No vote tallies were changed, according to Obama administration intel analyses, but the interference was serious enough that many insist drastic steps must be taken to avoid a repeat in 2020.
Now, with special counsel Robert Mueller’s exhaustive investigation over and no Trump official charged with taking part in any Russki scheme, Russian election interference may turn out to be the most persistent scandal of the Obama era.
To date, it’s also one of the most puzzling.
Depending on which set of facts we examine, Russian interference was alternately foreseeable and unpredictable; expected, yet surprising.
The official reaction to it has begun to unfold as a Keystone Cops-type response by top Obama intel officials. They appear to have been so distracted by political motivations that they lost sight of the very danger they now claim threatens our democracy.
Here are 10 reasons why Russia election interference seems set to become the most enduring scandal of the Obama administration.
- Missed opportunity. Perhaps the best shot at disrupting Russian interference came as early as fall 2015. That’s when the FBI supposedly detected successful efforts by Russian hackers to breach Democratic National Committee (DNC) computers. For reasons unknown, the systems and others remained vulnerable to further attacks.
By July 2016, the DNC and FBI both had concluded Russians were responsible for additional hacks. Yet, the DNC reportedly refused to allowthe FBI to examine its servers and data in a timely fashion and — for reasons unexplained — the FBI failed to confiscate them. Obviously, when national security is at stake, the FBI does not need permission to examine evidence. A senior law enforcement official told CNN the DNC’s withholding of crucial evidence “caused significant delays and inhibited the FBI from addressing the intrusion earlier.” If the FBI (then led by Director James Comey) had acted quickly and definitively to examine the evidence, could that have prevented further interference?
2. Denial. On Oct. 18, 2016, President Obama made a comment that rivals his “ISIS is the jayvee team” remark in terms of its wrongheadedness. He declared that “no serious person” would suggest America’s elections could be rigged. “There's no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time,” said Obama.
At the time, the president was addressing a reporter’s question about voter fraud. But it’s significant to note that he offered this answer smack dab in the middle of the supposed Russia targeting of our election process. His failure to take the obvious opportunity to address this vulnerability implies he did not fully appreciate the threat, or was unwilling to confront it. Instead, he left the impression that the U.S. election process is impenetrable and outside interference is impossible.
Obama also infamously mocked Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 when Romney suggested Russia was a foe to be reckoned with. This begs the question of whether problems could have been staved off if the president had taken Russia more seriously.
Read the rest of the 10 Factors in Sharyl Attkisson's article in The Hill by clicking here.