Former Reagan administration Pentagon official says the CIA contention that Russia actively tried to help Donald Trump win is thus far devoid of any actual public evidence, yet the political firestorm makes a fair congressional probe much harder to achieve.
In recent days, both the Washington Post and New York Times reported the CIA is now convinced that Russia was not just trying to meddle in America’s democratic process but was actively working for the election of Trump. The Times report admits there is no concrete evidence for the charge but states that intelligence officials believe there is a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence.
At this point, the CIA is not alleging that Trump or his campaign colluded in this alleged Russian plot or that Russia in any way impacted voting or vote counting on Election Day.
Nonetheless, Trump critics are sounding the alarm. While admitting the vote itself was not tampered with, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it’s obvious who benefited from Russia’s alleged mischief.
“You didn’t need a security clearance to figure out who benefited from malicious Russian cyberactivity,” said Earnest during Monday’s press briefing. “The president-elect didn’t call it into question, he called on Russia to hack his opponent. He called on Russia to hack Secretary Clinton. So he certainly had a pretty good sense of whose side this cyberactivity was coming down on.”
Congressional leaders have agreed to hold hearings into the issue next year, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected the idea of creating a special committee to do the work. He said the intelligence panel is well suited to do the work.
But while lawmakers prepare to dig into the issue, some are going so far as to call for new elections, and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta wants electors to receive an intelligence briefing prior to voting Dec. 19.
The latter reactions are more than a bit hysterical, according to Frank Gaffney. He is the president of the Center for Security Policy and served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
“It’s fragmentary at best. At worst it’s a lot of hearsay,” Gaffney told WND and Radio America.
“What the public knows is very limited. It really comes down to some press accounts based on unnamed sources in the CIA, people talking about briefings they had from CIA or FBI or others,” Gaffney said.
And he said the reaction on the political left is going to make getting real answers much more difficult.
“This has now become so laced with politics that it may corrupt any such investigation,” Gaffney explained. “When I say laced with politics, this is, on the one hand, a case of a partisan agenda unmistakably to call into question Donald Trump’s election.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Frank Gaffney:
He points to Obama’s Jan. 20 deadline for the investigation as another sign of politics. He said this probe should be allowed to run its course through the relevant agencies and Congress.
Gaffney labels Trump’s approach to Russia as “benign” but notes the Obama administration also did its best to make nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin – especially in the early years of this presidency.
“These are the very who in the outgoing administration of Barack Obama have done much to appease and pander to Vladimir Putin. It’s a confused situation, to say the least,” he said.
However, Gaffney said America does need to get to the bottom of whether a foreign power was trying to meddle in the election.
“We certainly don’t want foreign governments – the Russians, the Chinese or anyone else – engaging in interference on our elections, and I think we need to understand that the Russians, Chinese and others are both capable of doing this and probably have done it in the past,” Gaffney said.
The United States has influenced its share of elections and regime changes through the years. The Obama administration is widely believed to have worked for the defeat of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and for the election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
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Gaffney said there is a litmus test for interfering.
“It’s generally bad practice to be interfering in the elections of your friends,” he said. “Where there are opportunities to help friendly people in what would otherwise be hostile nations, I think that’s something that’s in the national interest to do.”
He also said, regardless of what is learned as the investigation into Russia’s actions unfolds, Americans should be well aware that Putin presents a major threat to the U.S. by means ranging from cyber warfare to military actions and from nuclear threats to disinformation and economic warfare.
“Putin is a dangerous adversary, not a man we can safely do business with,” Gaffney said. “As long as he is president of Russia, I fear that there will be needless and potentially dangerous hostility emanating from the Kremlin and harming our interests and perhaps our security.”
He notes the Center for Security Policy recently published a book on the threat Putin poses to the U.S.