Friday, January 6, 2017

James Clapper and John McCain gloss over the possibility that Russian hackers changed vote totals to favor Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election

James Clapper
James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, stated before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Russian hackers did not change vote totals in the 2016 presidential election. How definitive was Clapper's statement, coming in response to a question from committee chairman John McCain? The answer is "not very."

Let's review the brief exchange, which started at the 34:53 mark in the YouTube video of the full hearing, embedded at the end of this post:

McCain: So, really what you're talking about is if they succeeded in changing the results of an election, which none of us believes they were, that probably has to constitute an attack on the United States of America because of the effects if they had succeeded.

Clapper: We cannot say . . . they did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort. (McCain talks over Clapper briefly.) We have no way of gauging the impact . . . on choices the electorate made. . . . Whether or not that constitutes an act of war is a very heavy policy call that the intelligence community can't make, but in my view, it's of great gravity.

Speaking of gravity, let's consider what is being discussed here. It's undoubtedly the single most important question hanging over the United States at the moment: Did Americans elect Donald Trump or did Russian hackers, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, manipulate vote totals to "select" Donald Trump? It was by far the key question to be addressed at yesterday's hearing, and yet exactly one minute from an almost 2 hour, 40 minute hearing was devoted to it.

Let's analyze what seems to be happening in the McCain/Clapper exchange:

* McCain asks a leading question, raising the notion of Russia succeeding at changing the results of the election, but adding, "None of us believes they were." That's the kind of sweeping generality that McCain cannot possibly prove and almost certainly is not accurate. But yet, it probably had an impact on Clapper's answer.

* Clapper starts to say something along the lines of, "We cannot say whether Russian hacks changed the election result." But then he catches himself and says, "They did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort." Those are two very different statements, and Clapper clearly started out to say the former and changed course to say the latter.

Think of the many obvious questions that could have been asked as followups, by either McCain or someone else on the committee:

(1) Mr. Clapper, how do you know Russian hackers did not change the vote totals?

(2) Please describe, in detail, the investigative process that was used to reach this determination.

(3) What are the key technical findings that caused you to reach your conclusion? Have you even had time, less than two months, to fully investigate such a complex situation?

(4) Are you saying that Russia tried to change vote totals, but the U.S. thwarted them? If so, how did we thwart them? Did our firewalls and other protective devices work as they should have? Were our systems more secure than many press reports have led us to believe?

(5) What about the possibility of a hack on vote tabulations at the Associated Press, which reportedly had very poor cyber-security protocols in place. Did you check on that, and if so, what did you find?

(6) Going into the election, experts reported that Trump essentially had to win all of the following states -- Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He pulled off what seems to be an electoral miracle. What are the chances of that happening? Have you checked in each of those states to make sure vote manipulation did not occur?

(7) If Russia was involved in election interference, including hacking the DNC, why would they not go ahead and hack vote totals? I can think of only three reasons they wouldn't do it: (a) They were afraid to do it; (b) They did not have the capability to do it; (c) They had a sudden attack of conscience and decided it was improper to take their chicanery that far. Do you have reason to believe any of those three scenarios took place?

(8) Intercepts reportedly caught Russian officials celebrating and congratulating themselves after announcement of Trump's victory. Congratulating themselves for what? It sounds like they were congratulating themselves for some definitive steps they took to get Trump elected. Of all such possible steps, isn't the only one certain to work involve changing the vote totals? Just messing with the minds of American voters was not certain to succeed, was it? If not, then vote manipulation was required, correct? Even after all the pre-election mind games, polls showed Hillary Clinton winning fairly comfortably going into Election Day. Was vote manipulation the final arrow in the Russian quiver to make sure Donald Trump became president?

I could come up with many more similar questions . . . but, you get the idea -- and I'm just one guy with a blog from Alabama. Perhaps it will be proven that Russian did not manipulate the vote. But right now, evidence suggests U.S. officialdom has made no serious effort to find out.


Anonymous said...

This issue is the hot potato nobody wants to touch.

Anonymous said...

I like your questions, Schnauzer. No chance any of them were going to be asked at that committee hearing.

Anonymous said...

A hearing like that is mostly for show. I like to think serious work is going on behind the scene, but we're not going to learn much from a Senate hearing.

Anonymous said...

This is the key point from your post: If Russia absolutely was determined that Trump would be president, the only way to make sure that happened was to hack the vote. And I think they did that. Half measures, like embarrassing Podesta and HRC and the DNC, were not ensured of working. In fact, the polls showed they weren't going to work. That tells me the vote had to be rigged.

Anonymous said...

Well, we now know Putin ordered the hacking campaign, and he did it to help Trump. No longer any doubt about that.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for sharing, @5:08. I guess that will cause more BS from Trump, more attacks on intelligence community.

Anonymous said...

Key part of the Washington Post story:

Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan, who had met with him.

But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have no way of gauging the impact . . . it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”

legalschnauzer said...

Trump's only concern seems to be propping up the myth that his election was legitimate, when it clearly was not.

Anonymous said...

What if Russians hacked the GOP primaries to ensure that Trump won that? I've yet to see that question raised. But it seems logical to me that the primaries had to be hacked if Russia was determined to make Trump president.

legalschnauzer said...

That is one heck of a question, @5:15, one I haven't seen posed before. If I were Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, etc., I would want answers. Hell, even Jeb Bush might want answers, if he can be awakened from his slumber.

Anonymous said...

Thank god someone is addressing the validity of election.Yes the Rep primary totals were hacked and that is probably the mechanism used in general election. Steins recount was stopped when they wanted to see the software used in Michigan and Penn. The college professor in Mich. who started the process for Stein has not said a word since the recount was stopped.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for an interesting comment, @1:24. Have you seen any published reports re hacking of GOP primaries? Can you provide link(s)? Not trying to put you on the spot, but just curious to see any possible reporting on that subject. To me, if Putin was determined to make Trump the POTUS, then he had to hack GOP primary, too. Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, Bush, among others, should want to get to the bottom of this.

Yes, the college prof has been quiet lately. Wasn't sure exactly what caused the Stein recounts to stall. Any links on questions about the software in MI and PA being the cause?

I have a feeling that our "leaders" don't have the guts to find out what really happened and to do anything about it. I hear Trumpistas (and maybe BernieBots) saying there is no evidence of interference at all. Yet, there also is no evidence I can see to back up the claim that Russia did not hack the vote totals. I find it hard to believe that Putin would do all of this other stuff, but then fail to hack the vote, when he clearly has the capability and we are vulnerable.

e.a.f. said...

of course the Russians celebrated when Trump was elected. they now had a President elect of the U.S.A. who is a baffon and some one easily influenced when you flatter him. he has no government or international experience, so the Russians loved the fact that he was elected whether they influenced the election or not.

My opinion on the vote, most likely they didn't influence via hacking the totals which caused Trump to win and Clinton to loose. That the Russians or their friends hacked and were able to disseminate information which turned public opinion against Clinton, upp they did that.

On the one hand it is truly upsetting that Russia was able to manipulate the American voters and thus the results of the election. On the other hand, what goes around comes around. The U.S.A. has influenced many elections around the world, kept dictators in power, "fixed" it so other duly elected officials were removed from office. We need look no further than how the original Shah of Iran came to his throne. Who can forget the "suicide" of the President of Chile. the list goes on. I recall reading something recently that listed 38 countries where American intelligence "influenced" the elections of a foreign country.,

What the Russians have done ought to be of concern to all democratic countries. If they are able to influence the German elections and Ms. Merkle is not re-elected Europe could be in trouble.

The greatest concern I have regarding Trump's presidency and his "close" relationship with Russia/Putin is Russia in my opinion is a thugocracy. its run by crooks. Once they have a hold in American it will not go well for the country nor for Canada and Mexico. Although Mexico having its own very violent criminal element, maybe able to stave off Russian organized crime.

A. 5:15 certainly raised an interesting point. Never thought about that, but it would make a great deal of sense. Looking back at the whole thing, I was more surprised that Trump was the Republican candidate than he won against Clinton.

Great Post L.S. The questions you raise need to be answered but I've got a feeling they won't be. The Americans would not want to admit their elections were influenced by some thugs in Russia. The Americans pride themselves on being the world's super power. If you are the world's super power than how could your election be manipulated. So if it was manipulated, you're just another country and not the super power of the world.

The U.S.A. has been a nation in some decline since the recession of the 1980s. The average working family simply isn't doing as well. Once that starts to happen, you truly are no longer a super power. You may have arms, you may have billionaires, but if your average person is going down the food chain instead of up, your country as a whole is sliding down.

The U.S.A. has simply become to large to govern and money in politics has become to big an influence. if things do not change and the federal government becomes ruled by individuals who are extreme in nature, I wouldn't be surprised at all if California, Oregon, and Washington States decided to leave the Union.

Now totally off topic: An Ontario judge wore a red Trump baseball cap to court the day following the American election. He was removed from his position. i.e. suspended from work. His continued employment is now under review because many consider him incapable of being impartial. Yes, Canadian judges are held to a high and strict standard.