Russia and the US Elections

Throughout the 2016 presidential race, on of the core topics that was heatedly debated on was Russia. Hillary Clinton took a strong stance on Russia, and was vehemently in favor of imposing more sanctions on Russia. She criticized their involvement in the middle east- especially Syria, and their airspace violations. On one occasion, Clinton even went out of her way to label the Russian President, Vladimir Putin a bully. Donald Trump on the other hand criticized Clinton’s rhetoric on Russia, and has stated time and time again that being friends with Russia isn’t “such a bad thing”. Russia in return seems to hold a favorable view of Trump and has said some encouraging statements about him. Vladimir Putin even gave a  congratulatory speech for Trump on winning the presidency, although this isn’t saying much since he also extended the same courtesy to Obama in 2012. The disagreements between Clinton and Trump on Russia is lengthy, and it goes beyond the scope of this article. The main story however is the effect of Russia on the elections.

On Dec 9th, the Central Intelligence Agency made a secret assessment public that state sanctioned hackers in  Russia had interfered on Donald Trump’s behalf in the US election. Democrats who pointed their fingers at Russia for the DNC and Clinton email hacks, called for an investigation into the election, and were joined by some top Republican officials including John McCain the 2008 presidential candidate who said that ” this can’t be a bipartisan issue.” However Donald Trump said he didn’t believe it, claiming it was another excuse to undermine his election into the white house. He was joined by his campaign manager who called the report laughable, and his supporters in denying the report, as swiftly as they deny Global Warming. However, Russia’s involvement in the elections, could not have been more obvious than than an elephant wearing a rainbow colored tie. In fact, several Russian individuals admitted to posing as Americans online in order to spread misinformation. In Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, the host interviewed two Russian hackers who admitted to posing as suburban housewives living in States like Ohio, and  online, one of them admitting to having hundreds of fake Facebook accounts. They admitted that they were being paid by the Russian government to influence the way people vote in the election. (See full video here). The full frontal host was not the first to discover this phenomenon.Adrian Chen of the New Yorker wrote in his article The Agency penned in June 2015 during his investigation of Russian activities made this statement saying

“From a nondescript office in St Petersburg, Russia, an armybof well paid ‘trolls’ has tries to wreak havoc alk around the internet—and in real life American communities”

Chen was not referring to the US elections at this time. This was mainly about the Kremlin, and the spreading of misinformation by Russian hackers in American societies. A trend which has caused people such as Clinton and the Pope to speak out, only to be called liars by Trump supporters who label whatever does not align with their views as “fake news”. However Chen published another article in July 2017, and made a statement about the Russian trolls:

” I noticed something interesting: many had begun to promote right-wing news outlets, potraying themselves as conservative voters who were increasingly fans of Donald Trump. “

Chen has continued to warn people against Russian interference, and the spreading of “fake news” on social media sites like Facebook, a website that has faced criticism for allowing people to share fake articles, without any form of censorship. Unfortunately his pleas still fall on the deaf ears of the right wing.

The hacking of the DNC emails occurred at a convenient time, Donald Trump himself called for the Russian government to hack Clinton’s email at a rally. A few Weeks later, Hillary’s top aide’s emails are posted on Wikileaks. Although Julian Assange, the owner of Wikileaks has claimed that he did not receive his information from Russia, but one cannot help but wonder about the convenient timing of the attacks. It destabilized the democratic party, allowing Trump to push forward his rhetoric, which cost Clinton the election. The democrats time and time again pointed their fingers at Russia as the perpetrator of the attacks, but Trump insisted they had no evidence—which was true at the time. It was mostly speculation. Trump claimed it could have been China (a country he has issues with), or it could have been a “200 pound guy lying down on his bed.” But seeing as the top intelligence agency has come forward with a report that Russia was indeed responsible for the DNC and Email hacks one would think that the next president on the United States would take the matter seriously. Trump, who has refused to go for daily intelligence briefings because he is “so smart”, remains defiant saying he does not believe it. Trump refuses to acknowledge a problem which has been pointed out by a top Intelligence agency in the US, an agency that is responsible for warning the president about foreign threats, an agency that daily protects the American people from terrorism, an agency that maintains a wide network of agents around the world including in Russia, an agency that was responsible for tracking down Osama Bin Laden —the man responsible for 9/11, an agency that has been the firewall between America and global threats. Donald Trump still refuses to put behind his ego because he is afraid it would impact his presidency. And he is right. It would, especially if he keeps ignoring the large fly under his nose. This is not going away. Not by a long shot. But that does not keep him and his followers from facing the realistic truth that Russia is responsible for destabilizing the elections.

Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the CIA report is a regular pattern that we have seen of him.  Anytime someone says something he does not agree with, he resorts to attack mode. We saw it with Megyn Kelly. We also saw it with Saturday Night Live. It happened with Paul Ryan. We saw it with the Carrier union leader. The list goes on and on. It is one of his many tactics, and he has an army of followers to back him up on whatever he says. One might wonder how far said followers would follow him. But the difference here with the CIA and all those fore mentioned  is that, the CIA is mainly focused on providing intelligence for the president and his cabinet. Trump’s disdain for intelligence briefings has already revealed what kind of President he will be. Disregarding intelligence reports from not only the CIA but from 17 intelligence agencies, is not a smart thing to do. It is very dangerous, and it builds lack of trust. After all why should people trust a president who puts his own selfish interests above the people’s own.

One might wonder what Trump’s possible ties to Russia might be. Why Russia would go so far to ensure Trump’s victory. One thing that raised many eyebrows during the election was Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. Although he and his children have stated that he does not have any investments in Russia, records show that Trump has sought and received financial assistance from Russian investors. His top campaign advisers have been reported to have deep ties with Russia, one of which is Paul Manafort, who has done multi-million dollar deals with Russian Oligarchs and was also a longtime consultant to Victor Yanukovich, the Russian backed president of Ukraine, overgrown in 2014. His recent consideration for Secretary of state Rex Tillerson does nothing to alleviate the minds of Americans either, as he has been reported to have deep ties in Russia. Clinton claimed that Putin wanted Trump in the white house because he wanted “a puppet he can control” As scary as that image might be, it is not as frightening as the image of a whole administration under the influence of the Russian government. There is only so much people can ignore about the uncertainty of the Trump presidency. Trump might not be beholden to Russian Oligarchs, and powerful interests.Or he might be. Because of his refusal to be transparent, every decision he makes will be met by skepticism from the left and from some of the people in the right because no one is sure who Trump is working for. The American people or Russia.

Regardless of Trump’s defiance, bipartisan lawmakers are now calling for an investigation into Russia’s alleged hacking. This is a problem, whether Donald Trump want’s to admit it or not, and it could have disastrous consequences apart from allegedly having a president picked by Putin. Because if Russia can be so brazen enough to hack our democracy, poison the minds of Americans, and cause destabilization in the  American election, what’s to stop them from doing it again?

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