WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers took to the airwaves Sunday to defend their leader, President Trump, after a week of compelling and at times damning testimony in the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.
The most absurd and delusional of these appearances came on Fox News anchor Chris Wallace’s show. Wallace had invited on Republican Senator John Neely Kennedy (R-La.). At one point in the interview, Wallace showed an excerpt of former National Security Council staffer and impeachment witness Fiona Hill’s testimony this week when she chided members of the Intelligence Committee for promoting a “fictional narrative” that Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. Then Wallace played a clip of President Trump on “Fox & Friends” parroting that debunked same conspiracy theory — namely, that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016, not Russia.
Wallace then turned to his guest.
“Senator Kennedy,” Wallace asked, “who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their emails — was it Russia or Ukraine?”
“I don’t know,” Kennedy responded. “Nor do you. Nor do any of us.”
Disinformation is worse than a lie
It tries to kill faith that there is any truth.
Question: “Who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC…was it Russia or Ukraine?”
Senator Kennedy (R-La.): “I don’t know. Nor do you. Nor do any of us.”
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) November 24, 2019
This is, to put it mildly, delusional.
The Intelligence Community has concluded with confidence that Russia ordered and carried out the cyberattack on the DNC and 2016 Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which resulted in the release of tens of thousands of stolen emails and directly influenced the ’16 election.
The Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report in which it concluded that Russia had carried out the hack-and-dump operation that targeted the DNC and Clinton campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for carrying out the cyberattack on the DNC and the Clinton campaign. That indictment lays out with a startling level of detail how Russia pulled off the hack and how it then weaponized the stolen emails to interfere in the 2016 presidential race. Mueller’s final report confirms this, concluding: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” A key pillar of that interference operation, the report says, was the Russian hacking campaign: “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.”
There is, in other words, no real dispute about who was behind the 2016 DNC hack.
And there is not actual, physical server to be found, as the president claims. With cloud computing, the emails were not stored on a single server but on more than 100 different systems, according to court documents.
What we’re seeing from the Republican Party, then, is an attempt to defend by the president by denying not just facts but reality. Republicans like Sen. Kennedy are effectively telling the viewers of Fox News or whatever network or radio show they’re on to disbelieve their own eyes, to distrust the conclusions of every intelligence agency and the Department of Justice, to question what is essentially unquestionable. It’s a disinformation operation carried out in plain sight by members of one of America’s two main political parties.
The dark irony is that Republicans who parrot this kind of disinformation — No one really knows the truth; don’t believe what you see and hear; facts don’t matter — are essentially doing the Russians’ work for them.