If Vladimir Putin had walked into my Lyndonville polling place on November 8, I can’t imagine he would have been given a ballot. But in a sense, he may have all-but voted, covertly, from afar.
And that shouldn’t really surprise us, because there were obvious clues about Russian intervention in the final months of the campaign. Maybe it all seemed too much like a spy novel to take seriously. But then, life is often stranger than fiction.
Here’s the plot line. On July 27th, at a rare press conference, Republican candidate Donald Trump seemed to speak directly to the Kremlin. “Russia,” he said, “if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
On October 19th, at the third and final presidential debate, the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, clearly told about 72 million viewers that the Russian government had engaged in espionage against Americans by hacking American websites and the accounts of private people for information they then gave to WikiLeaks to put on the Internet.
Clinton didn’t mince words, blaming the highest levels of the Russian government, and Putin himself, for trying to influence the election, and she attributed that claim to more than one U.S. intelligence agency.
On NPR’s real-time fact-check blog, security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly more or less corroborated Clinton’s stunning assertions. U.S. intelligence agencies had not yet called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name. But Kelly cited an Oct. 7th joint statement by the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, who said, “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” And there may be even more to this story.
Hackers allegedly struck the National Committees of both the Democrats and the Republicans, but I seem to remember that in the waning days of the campaign, the unflattering media spotlight was directed exclusively at the Clinton campaign. So I’d really like to know what the hackers found in Republican emails - not because deeper investigation will change the outcome of the election, but because, with the GOP controlling both Congress and the White House, the party now in power should be subject to at least as much scrutiny as the party no longer in charge.