Demonization of Putin as “Personally” behind Clinton Hack is old Propaganda Technique

Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The leaked allegations supposedly from the CIA that Russian President Vladimir Putin “personally” directed how hacked emails from the Clinton campaign should be treated with a good deal of skepticism.

I have already said that the allegations of effective Russian interference in the US election do not make any sense to me. There is no point at which anything Russia is said to have done can be shown to have determined the election outcome.

The things that appear to have hurt Clinton late in the election were her “deplorables” comment about Trump supporters, and the Comey letter about the new emails the FBI had found on Anthony Weiner’s computer. Neither of these incidents had any Russian connection.

I don’t doubt that Russian intelligence was interested in sowing discord in the US around its election. I am saying that there is no evidence that it succeeded.

Moreover, John Podesta’s emails were not hacked. He fell for a phishing scheme in which he received a phony email asking for his login information, which he answered after a technical assistant incorrectly told him the email was legitimate (he meant to say illegitimate). The phishing scheme could easily have failed (never click on a link in your email and then enter sensitive information– open any login page you use manually so as to make sure you aren’t going to a spoofed address; and, first examine the address line from which the email originated; phonies can be easily spotted. People you deal with legitimately aren’t going to ask you for your login information–they already have that).

Then what?

A phishing scheme is more the speed of that fabled Nigerian prince-scammer than the president of the Russian Federation.

The perpetrators of the phishing scheme, moreover, were not Russian FSB intelligence. They were just a civilian gang that may or may not have been employed by the Russian government.

Given that no one can point to any specific incident or incidents in which the Podesta emails had a discernible effect on the election, there is little reason to blame the outcome of the election on Russia.

But the most recent psy-ops leaks, allegedly from the CIA, speak in loving detail of how Putin himself took control of the operation, as part of a longstanding vendetta against Sec. Clinton.

No new information is added by such an allegation of Putin’s personal involvement. If you said that the Russian government did it, you’d be saying Putin. The image being created, of Putin personally intervening in an American election, is intended to pull at heartstrings. It is propaganda via personalization and demonization.

Personalization and demonization are well-known Washington propaganda techniques.

At one point George W. Bush maintained that he had been right to overthrow Saddam Hussein of Iraq even though that country had not had any dangerous unconventional weapons. The reason? Saddam Hussein, he said, was “evil.”

The “evilness” of an opponent of US policy is metaphysical, and can be used to justify almost anything.

Back in 1953, Iran had a nationalist prime minister who wanted a fair share from BP of the money from sale of Iran’s own oil. His name, Mohammad Mosaddegh, showed his aristocratic lineage. The Eisenhower administration and the compliant Washington press corps waged a campaign of personal vilification against Mosaddegh, hinting around that he was a communist and a puppet of the Soviet Union. This was an aristocratic nationalist!

Demonizing Mosaddegh was a prelude to the CIA buying a crowd and overthrowing the elected prime minister of a major parliamentary country. It has never to this day recovered its democracy.

Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was also demonized.

So was Yasser Arafat. Salvador Allende of Chile.

Whenever the US intelligence agencies collaborate with mass media to throw up on the screen the face of a foreign leader, giving him devil’s horns and making his face red with the flames of hell, we have to take that depiction as a sign that they intend to do something to that country.


Related video:

PBS NewsHour: “How Putin could have been involved in U.S. election disruption”

57 Responses

  1. Did Russia obtain the emails and publish them via Wikileaks?
    If they did, are you saying this something not to worry about?
    Should we be worried about new administration’s links to Russia?

    • NO! Assange and others have denied this. However, the point surely is that the emails were genuine and Clinton’s dishonesty was exposed. of course she is frantic.
      To assume Russia needs to interfere in the USA’s “democratic elections” is to ignore the obvious faults in the whole system (check electoral college, money in campaigns, media bias…….).

    • According to the Daily Mail, Craig Murray, who is the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and associate of Julian Assange,

      “flew to Washington, D.C. for emails….He claims he had a clandestine hand-off … near American University with one of the email sources. Murray said the leakers’ motivation was ‘disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the ’tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders’…

      Murray says: ‘The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks’. ‘Regardless of whether the Russians hacked into the DNC, the documents Wikileaks published did not come from that,’ Murray insists.” ….
      link to

  2. More generally still, why do we not hear outrage about American state politicians using “voter ID” legislation as a mechanism for voter suppression? Why do we not hear outrage about American state politicians using very limited polling facilities as a mechanism for voter suppression?

    Once again we have the “big lie” at work — outsiders are “bad guys” — but everything “our own people” do is automatically OK.

    And don’t get me started about the NSA, GCHQ, and the Five Eyes”…

  3. I would have thought so as well, except for the EU reports on Putin or Russia’s cyber attacks on EU countries, including Germany. Its very 1950’s, cold war thinking and yet it seems to really be happening. link to

      • Apparently you believe Assange and Putin instead of the EU, 17 government intelligence agencies, private security companies and just about everyone else outside of Trump, Putin, and their rabid supporters. Amongst security professionals, there is no doubt. Do a google search and check out a recent article in The Hill from an expert.

    • This is all nonsense made up by the Merkel-government who is scared of the coming elections. Trust me, there is no hint of truth in any of that.

  4. Thank you again, Juan, for a valuable contribution. Why is that Americans take at face value the U.S. offical demonization routines without subjecting them to critical assessments based on a review of the evidence provided, the official motives and similar efforts in the past? At all times, one should begin in weighing these claims with an agnostic “show me” viewpoint instead of a presumption of validity. Once again, the mainstream “experts” are making the same mistakes. When a NY Times lead story has as its bottom line an assertion that we know that Russia was behind “the hacks” because “informed sources” believe that this is so, as was the case several days ago, all sorts of alarm bells should go off. Instead, people who should know better keep swallowing this type of nonsense.

  5. Professor Cole,

    Phishing is hacking. In fact, it’s the most common and reliable means of gaining entry to someone’s data and not at all quaint or amateurish as you seem to believe. Please be more careful of the boundaries of your expertise, that I admire greatly.

  6. “The leaked allegations supposedly from the CIA that Russian President Vladimir Putin “personally” directed how hacked emails from the Clinton campaign should be used should be treated with a good deal of skepticism.”

    Yes, I agree, but there really didn’t need to be any “direction”; any observer of US politics would have understood the press’ obsession with Hillary’s emails. Hillary + email = guilt of something, anything. Any even half-hearted observer would also understand the hay the GOP together with the press would make of this, so again, there wouldn’t be much “direction” needed. The leak per se would be enough – and it was, receiving play on the front pages of the NYT and WaPo for days. That same observer would understand that the GOP gets away with murder, but the Dems can’t scream like Howard Dean (see Prof. Cole’s post yesterday on why GOP presidents can go hard right, but Dems can’t do the same).

    “I have already said that the allegations of effective Russian interference in the US election do not make any sense to me. There is no point at which anything Russia is said to have done can be shown to have determined the election outcome.”

    And there never will be any way to show that it did, because so many factors go into any election, and this one all the more so. Remember President Elect Flibberty-Gibbet (hereafter PEFG – his name is of the language of Mordor, which I shall not utter here!) just won the electoral college by a mere 80,000 votes in a few counties in three states. Racial backlash, a stagnant economy, general moral malaise, years of being stewed in an absurd and vicious right-wing media environment, Clinton fatigue, Neal Postman’s nightmare (by which we are amused to death), FBI interference, voter suppression – lots of factors went into Black Tuesday. Could it have been Russia’s release of hacked DNC emails? Possibly, but there’s literally no way to know in the end – there were just too many other factors.

    His dictis, the possibility that Russia got lucky can’t be dismissed, esp. given the connections of PEFG and his Band of Flying Monkeys (aka assorted cabinet nominees and presidential appointments) have with Russia (such as Manafort and Tillerson), and how Russia stands to profit from this monstrous presidency (esp. in the case of Exxon’s and Tillerman’s desired $500 billion dollar oil deal with the Kremlin). And why wouldn’t Russia want to weaken American democracy and our system of governance if it can further Russian interests? (And this is just off the top of my head – I know there’s a good more to this than what I just laid out).

    I hold out that I am entirely wrong and abhor conspiracy theories. I want to stay sober about what I read in the papers, esp. given the nexus of authoritarianism and the fraught information environment in which we now all find ourselves – but by historical standards all of this seems just too much a series of coincidences, and there is too much a critical mass of them to simply dismiss. Can someone explain why this is not believable, given the circumstances?

    I must confess that part of my confusion about possible Russian involvement is because so many good, independent journalists (from Josh Marshall to Amy Goodman) appear to have accepted what others whom I equally respect (Prof. Cole’s post here as an example, or Glenn Greenwald) are calling a psy-ops by our own government. To what end? CIA and FBI types tend to be right wing – why would the CIA have an interest in keeping this story alive?

    Could it be they hope to bring down PEFG because they fear him? Why would the CIA destabilize its own country through calling into question the legitimacy of a presidential election? Is it just to keep pressure on the administration to follow our traditional policy towards Russia? Do they fear PEFG will let Putin gobble up the Baltics?

    I’m posing these questions because I am genuinely confused here and would like to know. What do others think? Are we a victim of Trump’s razor [the stupidest explanation being the most likely]? If we are, what is that “stupidest” explanation? Any comments or enlightenment would be appreciated.

  7. The Russians doubtless hack every kind of US site, including the DNC. But passing such stuff to Wikileaks is quite another matter. The most damning revelation was arguably the insight into the anti Sanders manoeuvres. That was a breathtakingly arrogant and insidious exercise and it would not surprise me if someone of integrity, perhaps a Sanders fan, within the DNC decided to hang that washing on the line.

      • Thank you. That’s a well reasoned piece. His conclusion, however, is predicated on the notion that people behave rationally, which they don’t. The earlier stages of the contest between Sanders and Clinton were not the most dignified, and the broader democratic Sanders supporters didn’t all simply let their disgruntlement fade and switch to Clinton. You would only need one such minded person with access to the server to capture its email contents. But my main point is that hacking into a server is not the same as releasing the data to WikiLeaks. Inter alia he writes According to a Western European intelligence source, Russian hackers, using a series of go-betweens, transmitted the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. This, of course, is an anonymous attribution, but assuming it to be true it would hardly be a threat to anyone’s national security to identify the chain and put the whole matter to rest. Meanwhile, as an aside, Clinton claims Putin engineered the whole business out of personal animosity to her, which puts me in mind of my grandmother, commemorated in my uncle Leonard’s novel Mrs. Searwood’s Secret Weapon, who was persuaded Hitler’s blitz on London was directed against her personally.

      • “More insidious and subtle, but even worse, was what Newsweek and its Clinton-adoring writer Kurt Eichenwald did last night. What happened — in reality, in the world of facts — was extremely trivial. One of the emails in the second installment of the WikiLeaks/Podesta archive — posted yesterday — was from Sidney Blumenthal to Podesta. The sole purpose of Blumenthal’s email was to show Podesta one of Eichenwald’s endless series of Clinton-exonerating articles, this one about Benghazi. So in the body of the email to Podesta, Blumenthal simply pasted the link and the full contents of the article. Although the purpose of Eichenwald’s article (like everything he says and does) was to defend Clinton, one paragraph in the middle acknowledged that one minor criticism of Clinton on Benghazi was possibly rational.” by Glenn Greenwald – link to

  8. Ooh Ooh let me guess. Another proxy war with an unrelated country in the middle east?

    The list is running low, but there are still 3 or 4 coutries left:
    Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia haven’t had wars in a while. None are Russia allies but whatevs. Something must be done.

    I vote for Jordan, it sounds like the safest.

  9. It further occurs to me: Lost in all of this is that the president elect and his staff (e.g. Monica Crowley) encouraged hacking of Hillary’s emails by Russia. Encouraging foreign interference in an American presidential election so publicly – that’s kind of a big deal. So I remain flummoxed as to why any who point out Russian interference are being accused of some sort of involvement in a new Red Scare (see, e.g., a number of posts at the Intercept).

    • “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims: As the hysteria about Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election grows, a key mystery is why U.S. intelligence would rely on “circumstantial evidence” when it has the capability for hard evidence, say U.S. intelligence veterans.” – link to

  10. Good examples of our past mischief. I wonder if we still have a hand in the continued ruination. Venezuela.

    Mr. Snowden Gave us a good look at how massively aggressive our superbly equipped computer warriors are. If we think it’s important to hack Angela Merkel’s cell phone, could there be anything not worth hacking in Russia? Could the Russian intrusion be a quid pro quo for our intrusions and mischief we do to them?

    I do think the Podesta email revelations hurt Clinton, at least at the margins. The right has a well honed capability to turn a flea into a rotting whale on the beach. Defiling Clinton has been a 24/7 right wing effort for years, so new material is always welcomed and needed. Right wing radio can spend hours proving the criminality of a misplaced comma.

  11. “You could get a [Washington Post] journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.” -CIA operative cited in “Katherine The Great” by Deborah Davis

    “…the [Central Intelligence] Agency has a whole stable of writers, its favorite magazines and newspapers, its publishing houses, and its “backgrounders” ready to go at all times” – former Pentagon liaison to the CIA Colonel L Fletcher Prouty

    “There is quite an incredible spread of relationships. You don’t need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are [Central Intelligence] Agency people at the management level.” -William B. Bader, former CIA intelligence officer

    “During the 1976 investigation of the CIA by the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church, the dimensions of the Agency’s involvement with the press became apparent to several members of the panel, as well as to two or three investigators on the staff. But top officials of the CIA, including former directors William Colby and George Bush, persuaded the committee to restrict its inquiry into the matter and to deliberately misrepresent the actual scope of the activities in its final report”

    “Contrary to the notion that the CIA insidiously infiltrated the journalistic community, there is ample evidence that America’s leading publishers and news executives allowed themselves and their organizations to become handmaidens to the intelligence services”

    “The Agency’s relationship with [The New York] Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials. [It was] general Times policy … to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.”

    Preceding quotes from ‘CIA and the Media’ by Carl Bernstein

    “Propaganda experts in the CIA station in Kinshasa busily planted articles in the Kinshasa newspapers, Elimo and Salongo. These were recopied into agency cables and sent on to European, Asian, and South American stations, where they were secretly passed to recruited journalists representing major news services who saw to it that many were replayed in the world press. Similarly, the Lusaka station placed a steady flow of stories in Zambian newspapers and then relayed them to major European newspapers

    “During a staff meeting I voiced my concern to —-, were we on safe ground, paying agents to propagandize the New York press? The agency had recently been warned against running operations inside the United States and propagandizing the American public. —- seemed unconcerned. We were safe enough, he said, as long as we could plausibly claim that our intent was to propagandize foreigners at the United Nations

    “The task force worked out the details by cabling New York, Lusaka, Kinshasa, and key European stations. Each delegation opened a bank account in Europe to which European-based CIA finance officers could make regular deposits. Thereafter the CIA could plausibly deny that it had funded anyone’s propagandists in the United States. It would be extremely difficult for any investigators to prove differently

    “Director Colby testified before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, saying: “We have taken particular caution to ensure that our operations are focused abroad and not at the United States to influence the opinion of the American people about things from the CIA point of view.” A remarkable statement in view of what we had been doing in the task force (Director Colby received copies of all [relevant] cables and memoranda.)”

    Preceding quotes from ‘In Search of Enemies‘ by CIA officer John Stockton

  12. Technology’s ascendance has led governments to fall all over themselves trying to find ways of publicizing things (data, info, or informed lies) they desire their public to know, without revealing their own technological capabilities. That may be the case here. But previous US actions/administrations that bloodied the waters by claiming truth for misrepresentations make doubt a reasonable attitude today. Wait and see might be wise, but is also a disadvantage.

  13. I think it was the Comey letter that was the most important factor in Trump winning the Electoral College vote. Nate Silver also thinks so:link to
    However, to deny Putin’s involvement shows a lack of understanding of the operation of the Russian system. Putin was a KGB agent and, thus, a former communist. There is no more top down organization in history than the KGB in the USSR. Nothing of importance would be decided by subordinates. Additionally, we know from history of the Soviet Union that Russian premiers were involved in deciding some of the most detailed and miniscule issues. In short, it is inconceivable that something as important as hacking another country’s election, or even hacking into a major function in a major power like the United States, could be done without the knowledge and specific approval of Vladimir Putin. Dictators don’t delegate decisions. You really dropped the ball on this one.

  14. Mr. Cole. You seem to suggest that you have more evidence on this matter than the CIA and dozens of intelligence officials who claim that the Russian government is directly responsible for hacking into the DNC and Clinton’s emails. And that our government is in panic mode with dubious foreign policy intentions. You also claim that “There is no point at which anything Russia is said to have done can be shown to have determined the election outcome.” I ask you, is “influencing the election” enough?

    You seem to contradict your claim when you say that it was a “Phishing” scam, while on the other hand, you say,” I don’t doubt that Russian intelligence was interested in sowing discord in the US around its election. I am saying that there is no evidence that it succeeded.” It seems to me that they succeeded, Mr. Cole.

    • It seems the worst that came out of the emails was the DNC’s opportunistic bias against Sanders. But if Russia thought that would throw the election, they would have had to bet that the DNC manipulation would cause Sanders voters to stay at home for the general election. That’s a bit too Machiavellian to be credible

  15. To me it is possible that Putin/Russia may have hacked into various political websites. Yes the US has a bad reputation for demonizing leaders we don’t like, and exaggerating their danger to the American people to topple them, but somehow with Trumps undying love and support for Putin, his maybe business connections to Russia (which we may never know), and the consistent refusal to criticize Russia, shows some weird connections that only his pro Russian administration will know. If at all possible to hack and interfere with our election results, I am sure Russia will not hesitate to do so, putting Trump in the WH will give Putin the opportunity to influence US policies, and have a puppet installed in the WH.

  16. Shuan Rose

    It may be an old propaganda technique. It also may be true. Obama isn’t in the habit of throwing around unwarranted accusations.

  17. elaine layabout

    Refusal to redbait means you’re:

    a) pro-Trump
    b) commie
    c) misogynist
    d) alt-right, or
    e) fond of facts

    (correct answer is “e”)

  18. Paul Wilson

    So we should always be skeptical of the American government and assume they are lying 100% of the time, but always take what Russia, an authoritarian, right-wing, anti-lgbt, anti-free-press state says at face value? It is hard for me to believe that Putin had absolutely no knowledge or input in the Russian operations against the U.S. This is like arguing Chris Christie had no knowledge of Bridgegate. You claim demonization of leaders presages U.S. action in those nations and cite Venezuela. What, exactly, have we done there since we “slandered’ Hugo Chavez? I’d say the state of Venezuela is mostly the fault of Chavismo and slumping oil profits and not secret CIA conspiracies to ruin the economy.
    The example of Mossadegh gets brought up ad nauseum, as if no other nation similarly hatched plans to overthrow democratically elected leaders. This happened 60 years ago; we live in a different geo-political world. It’s time to retire this old go-to example of American perniciousness.
    Let me guess; the annexation of Crimea was a legitimate pre-preemptive strike to protect Russian civilians from an evil, Nazi Ukrainian government intent on murdering them? And I am sure the intervention in Syria is solely to fight ISIS and not at all to prop up Bashr Al-Assad while he slaughters his own people?
    I don’t understand why left-wing academics (and I consider myself very liberal) express the utmost skepticism towards the United States’ foreign policy, yet bend over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt to authoritarian regimes (and right-wing ones at that!). That’s not nuance; that’s ideological dogma. That’s assuming the worst of America and the best of vile regimes. The American goevrnment is guilty of many vile things in the 21st century (Iraq, Abu Gharib, etc). but I would hazard to guess that atrocities like this and worse happen fairly regularly in the nations that are being “victimized” by the American media. This is exactly what I am talking about Ewan Compton Hani Habra Patrick Neal Russell Julius

  19. “I don’t doubt that Russian intelligence was interested in sowing discord in the US around its election. I am saying that there is no evidence that it succeeded.”

    But this is not the point. Running this kind of interference is extremely aggressive, and if the Russians were behind this, there is little doubt that this had to be authenticated on the highest level, i.e. it it wouldn’t have gone forward without Putin’s approval.

    Then the question becomes, why would the Russian’s go to such length, given the very real risk of substantial blow-back?

    I thing looking at another set of facts, will answer this question:

    1) Trump had no interest in changing the GOP platform presented at the Republican convention, with one exception, he pulled all the hawkish lingo that condemned the Russian intervention in the Ukraine.
    2) Paul Manafort spent considerable time in the Ukraine working for the former president, and Russian asset, Viktor Yanukovych. He had to step aside when this connection became too much of an obvious liability to the Trump campaign. He is now again part of the transition team.
    3) The Russian deputy minister confirmed that they were in contact with the Trump campaign through-out the election process.
    4) According to a CNN report, a Kremlin advisor admitted they coordinated with Wikileaks.
    5) Trump has considerable business interests in Russia and visited the country often.
    6) Trump exhibits considerable sexual appetite.
    7) Russian “political culture” perfected the art of compromising politicians with embarrassing material, they even have a word for it (Kompromat).
    8) Mother Jones reported that a retired Intelligence officer came forward, alleging that this is exactly what has been done to Trump.
    9) Trump nominated Gen. Flynn as national security adviser, Flynn was a regular on Russian TV and gave a paid speech celebrating 1o years of RT News in Moscow. At the event he actually got to sit next to Putin.
    10) Under Rex Tillerson, Trump designated secretary of state, Exxon signed a deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft to provide access to lucrative oil resources in the Arctic. Rosneft’s largest shareholder is the Russian government. Putin attended the Exxon signing ceremony and later awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship.

    All this indicates to me that there is a very good chance that President Trump is Putin by proxy.

    No demonization required.

    • If you think this sounds like out of spy novel, I suggest to take a look at the Stasi (former GDR intelligence) archives. They implemented these schemes over and over again, and Putin being ex KGB will be quite accustomed with this MO.

  20. As the article in TNYT makes clear, it was the Russian military intelligence unit which hacked the DNC with the results indirectly forwarded to Wikileaks and others.

    The inference is that Putin approved at least the last step.

  21. I still want to know what Google knows, and/or thinks about, Google Analytics finding new “languages” being invented by users from Russia, using google’s own name in the name of their “languagues.” I am definitely not a computer expert, but it’s got to be some tricked-up algorithm or other hack that has Google Analytics recognizing what is really a website as a “language.”

    Google won’t let us ordinary people communicate with it, can some press or academic person pick this up? I have screenshots available, etc.

  22. Whether the Russians had an actual effect on the election can be debated. That they were actively involved in hacking is fairly well established at this point. And it’s fairly well established that the intent was to help Trump. Furthermore, Russian trolling, a different activity, has been going on at least since 2014.

    link to

    I have seen reports that the trolling has been actively organized since 2013. It is highly probable that when a Russian missile system was loaned to Russian partisans in the eastern Ukraine and was responsible for shooting down the Malaysian airplane over Ukraine, the Russian Internet trolls tried to blame the Ukrainians despite the fact that Ukraine has no such missile system.

    There’s a further issue. Informed Comment, like most blogs, is on a server and most servers allow the user to see who’s visiting the site. There’s been a sharp increase in Russian and eastern European visits since 2014, even when there are no articles related to Russia or Russian interests.

  23. I’ve been enjoying the outrage of Clinton supporters (Assuming one likes black humor). First a legion of fake news sites run by the DNC demonized Sanders. He was invested in Big Oil, hated women, took contributions from strike breakers.

    Right after the election, the demonization was repeated. How dare Sanders run against Ms. Clinton, thus setting the atmosphere for Trump. Then it was the Third Parties., and now? Praise God, it was those filthy Russians.

    As a member of the Left, I have long wondered at Tea Party types who exemplify “Cognitive Dissonance.” Now I see that it’s actually a communicable disease, and that the Liberals just can’t wait to catch it… :(

  24. It’s not useful to demonize Putin. But as Obama finally acknowledged, the Kremlin’s Numero Uno ordered a cyber hit on the US. I think Paul Krugman put it very nicely in his recent post:

    link to

    I’m not talking about some kind of wild conspiracy theory. I’m talking about the obvious effect of two factors on voting: the steady drumbeat of Russia-contrived leaks about Democrats, and only Democrats, and the dramatic, totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the F.B.I., which appears to have become a highly partisan institution, with distinct alt-right sympathies.

    Does anyone really doubt that these factors moved swing-state ballots by at least 1 percent? If they did, they made the difference in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and therefore handed Mr. Trump the election, even though he received almost three million fewer total votes. Yes, the election was hacked.

  25. How much the Russians may or may not have had to do with hacking the Democrats (and Republicans for that matter), they are playing games to expand their influence in various European countries including Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Estonia, Hungary, Ukraine, and so forth, using hacking as one of their tools. Priority is going to those countries formerly under their control. There is every reason to believe that hacking foreign governments and politicians is perfectly acceptable to Putin (as it sometimes is for US espionage agencies and presidents). As someone commented in the Washington Post recently, today’s Russia likes to be an agent of chaos……

  26. Trump has appointed 3 generals who are squarely in the anti-Russia camp. They’re also extremely hawkish on Iran, Russia’s ally in Syria. They conflate the various branches of political Islam and see them all as a great threat to the U.S. If they’re going to start a conflict with Iran, they have to demonize its ally Putin.
    Trump and Tillerson have ties to Russia, so it’s hard to predict what will happen. But, playing up the Russia thing in an effort to discredit Trump is actually helping the war hawks he has gathered around him.

  27. The demonization playbook always includes allegations of corruption. Did they ever find the stolen billions of Saddam, Gaddafi, Arafat or Yanukovych? (They did find some of non-demonized Marcos’ assets, including a Canadian drug store chain named “Big M”.)
    If they wanted to show a pattern of Russian hacking they could mention the Victoria Nuland phone call, but I guess they prefer not to call attention to that.

  28. Who cares how this if true influenced the election? The USA has invaded many countries, supported dictators, replaced directly or indirectly democratically elected Presidents in many countries with financial and weapons help. Any Coup tHE US has not been involved in? Go ahead investigate. I’ll wait for the report to come around 2020 maybe just before the next corrupted election where less than 50% care to show up. The arrogance and the ugly American continues unabated.

  29. It always amazes me how the same people who have a very skeptical attitude toward any domestic action or policy of an administration will accept as gospel anything coming from the same administration about foreign affairs.
    There is no missing the demonization of Putin. Also the willfull ignoring of Russia’s Interests and history by instead focusing on the leader of that country. It’s easy to explain the supposed threat of a “power hungry madman ” than a country’s national interests.
    Russia has been on the hit list for some time. We didn’t spend all that money in Ukraine for nothing. Saying Trump is beholden to Russia perhaps makes it harder for him to lift sanctions and work with a Russia in partnership. If he does he will be accused of serving his masters. But why are the Russophobes so adamant? Why is US policy so virulently anti Russian? Cui bono?

  30. That was a lot of reading to go w my bagel. My conclusion, based only on sarcasm as my compass, is that Russia is a mafia state and Trump is a mafia don. Just pay them their percentage and all will be fine. And never insult their wives!

  31. You are of course correct, Prof. Cole, it is an fine old propaganda technique. Bush used similar in the buildup to his Iraq conquest. Trouble is, being good technique, while suspicious, is not enough to make something true or false.
    I’m taking a wait and see on this.
    It’s sounding like the House Benghazi committee, might reluctantly have a look-see. That reminds me of how things started in ’74.

  32. “Russophobes,” and just about everyone both in and out of the US Government, are deeply suspicious of how Russia’s “National Interests” play out on the ground. These suspicions will be echoed by citizens of Finland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia, etc. Note the deliberate omission Serbia & Hungary. Given the history of Centuries-old top-down rule in Russia, it makes sense to focus criticism on Putin who is giving the public face to Russia’s “National Interests.”

  33. So, is Obama a willing or unwitting participant in this US intelligence anti-Putin disinformation campaign?

    After all, he’s taking the lead in pushing it.

    The CIA and other intel agencies certainly deserve a great deal of skepticism from the American people, but that doesn’t mean they should NEVER be believed, right?

    They warned the Bush admin. of the imminent threat by Bin Laden and AQ, but it was Bush, et al that ignored the threat.

    I don’t think you’re suggesting that.

    Again, on Iraq, it was Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld who were running their WMD disinformation effort out of the White House, while CIA analysts were urging caution. I think that’s important to remember.

    Also, McGovern lost the ’72 election because of his own failed campaign as well, not because of anything Nixon’s thugs “hacked” from the DNC HQ. So Clinton’s failure as an effective campaigner doesn’t change the fact that a serious crime was committed here, even if it didn’t have an obvious impact on the outcome in such a direct way.

    Sure, Clinton ran a lousy campaign (lousy enough to get her 2.6 mil more votes than the “victor”), but until we can completely rule out that the Russian interference played no part, and based on the unanimity of the intelligence agencies, I’m going to trust our intel community on this one.

    NOTE: Breaking (Friday, 12/17) is the WaPo story that the FBI director AGREES with the assessment that Russia intervened to help Trump.

    link to

    • Again, on Iraq, it was Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld who were running their WMD disinformation effort out of the White House, while CIA analysts were urging caution. I think that’s important to remember.

      George Tenet, head of the CIA, told Bush it would be a slam dunk to get the “intelligence” Bush wanted. The British ambassador to the US informed his government the intelligence would be fixed to make the case for war. Tenet was also backup for Colin Powell when he lied to the Security Council about WMDs in Iraq.

  34. As to whether Russia’s discord campaign “succeeded” or not is, I suppose, unknowable. One of many factors. (And let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton did win almost three million more votes than Donald Trump did.)

    As to whether Putin had a personal hand in it, what do I know? But I did read Masha Gessen’s Putin biography and I follow her occasional commentaries about him in The New York Times, and the controlling KGB alum she describes very will might have taken a personal interest in the discord campaign.

  35. Actually the main reason Hillary lost the election was Hillary, not hacking and news stories whether real or fake. Starting off as the most unpopular and distrusted Democratic nominee in modern times, she took great pains to make things worse for herself including spending the vast majority of the campaign hobnobbing with her 1% friends in the Hamptons and Hollywood. Her campaign was totally tone deaf to the mood of the country. She was simply the worst possible candidate and the only Democrat who could have lost to the idiot Trump.

    And if the US has not already been conducting serious cyberwarfare against Russia, among others, everyone involved in the program, up to and including Obama, should be fired.

    • “Starting off as the most unpopular and distrusted Democratic nominee in modern times…”

      …she now has nearly 3 million more votes than Trump.
      What does that say about Trump’s popularity compared to hers?

      And so, given this context, the Russian break in of the DNC has a little more importance than to be dismissed outright, as Trump and his surrogates would like us to do.

      Again, the ’72 break in of the DNC didn’t have much impact on the election, as McGovern was trounced by Nixon.

      But we didn’t dismiss the break in’s seriousness because of that fact. And I believe it’s just as legitimate to ask serious questions about what relationship the Trump campaign, or its surrogates, has with Russia, and any possible complicity by them with Russian actors. If true, then we’re talking about another coverup, which is very apparent as Trump and his surrogates dismiss this as all fabricated. Even Nixon couldn’t deny there was an actual break in. It was the coverup, and all other related “high crimes & misdemeanors,” that ultimately destroyed his Presidency.

      If this is all proven true, I’m not sure Trump could be charged and/or convicted since these crimes happened before he was elected. But if he continued a possible coverup after Jan. 20, then I’m fairly certain he could be impeached.

      Time will tell….

  36. Prof. Cole, do you believe this supposed Russian involvement (whether it played a role in the election or not), along with the appointment of Rex Tillerson, is signaling a transition towards an alliance with Russia under the Trump administration? We would love an article from you about the possible global implications of such an alliance.

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