Republican National Committee Chief Strategist Sean Spicer exploded during an interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish, when the journalist questioned him on recent reports that the Russian government attempted to influence the election in Donald Trump’s favor.
On Friday, both The Washington Post and the New York Times separately reported on different aspects of intelligence investigations and conclusions regarding the cyber attacks that were conducted on various Democratic organizations, including the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
The Post reported on a secret assessment by the CIA which concluded that not only was the Russian government involved in the hacking of the Democratic organizations, and not only was it trying to meddle in the U.S. election — a conclusion that has been corroborated by 17 U.S. intelligence agencies — but that, Russia was actually trying to tip the scale toward Donald Trump.
The New York Times focused on reports that the Republican National Committee had also been hacked by Russia, but that no information had been released. According to officials speaking to the Times, this information further solidified their belief that Russia was actually trying to put its thumb on the scale in favor of Donald Trump.
Spicer began the interview by specifically going after the finding that the RNC was hacked, stating that he and unnamed intelligence agencies — since all U.S. agencies are in agreement on the matter — had offered to provide the Times with information that proved the RNC had not been hacked, but that the Times refused.
He then stated that “If they are so certain it happened, why won’t they go on the record and say it,” referring to the CIA or other U.S. intelligence agencies.
His comments came the morning after he and more importantly, the Trump campaign mocked the findings of the CIA, implying that the agency was spreading false information for political gain. The statement from the Trump team was not only stunning, but sounded as if it had been drafted by the President-elect himself, based on its defensiveness and the baseless claim that Trump’s Electoral Vote victory was among the biggest in U.S. history — a claim that is patently false.
“I know that we have worked with intelligence agencies right now that are saying that we have not been hacked,” he told Smerconish in a heated conversation. “Our own systems show that we have not been hacked.” The claim is one that is not easily confirmed and when pressed, Spicer actually had to back off by saying that he is not an expert in cyber attacks.
Smerconish pushed back,
“I ‘m casting doubt on whether Sean Spicer can definitively know the answer to the question of the extent of the Russian hack and my frustration is at the idea that until this thing is fully developed already President-elect Trump is saying, ‘Move on folks, there’s nothing to see here.”
Smerconish added that he was frustrated that Trump quickly dismissed intelligence reports about Russian involvement in the election before seeing the results of an investigation on the matter. “I’m also troubled by the idea that my President-elect is already throwing under the bus the intelligence community with whom he’s going to have to work on life and death matters,” he said.
While Spicer continued to go wild, both physically and verbally, he finally did admit that he was outraged at the fact that Russia had attempted to meddle in the U.S. election. “I’m outraged,” he said. “I don’t think, Donald Trump doesn’t think, no one thinks that a foreign entity should be interfering with a foreign election.”
However, Spicer then pivoted the conversation to the wrong question, and Smerconish failed to correct him. Spicer said “What proof does anyone have that they actually affected the outcome?”
That is simply the wrong question. In fact, in order to properly address the true problem, perhaps it is best to start from the assumption that the Russians were not successful in their attempt to actually tip the election in the direction that they wanted — meaning that Trump would have won regardless of Russia’s help.
The real question is what to do about what Russia did, and how to prevent Russia or anyone else from trying to do it in the future.
Mr. Trump, Mr. Spicer, and their entire thin-skinned team, should stop being defensive, and actually acknowledge and address the first issue, which is the attempt made by the Russian government. Whether or not that attempt was successful is for another day.
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of CitizenSlant.