The recent uproar over President Donald Trump’s comments on foreign interference in the American electoral process would make even David Copperfield bow his head in awe, such is the scale of illusion and deception being generated. Criticism of the president is stunningly myopic when one considers the realities of the world in which we live. The two issues in play here are the illusion that U.S. presidential elections can be insulated from foreign influence, and the prospect of foreign-sourced information being used against an opposing political campaign.
To begin, it is worth noting that the single most influential entity in American politics is the media industry. Journalists enjoy a unique First Amendment protection which encompasses their right to protect sources. Given the politically partisan nature of most news organizations, there is no escaping the possibility that a print or online news outlet could, with impunity, publish compromising information – originating from a foreign government or other entity – on any one political candidate. Indeed, this is exactly what happened in 2016 when Buzzfeed published parts of the so-called Steele dossier.
Another major vehicle for influencing the voting public is social media. Twitter, Facebook, and multiple other platforms are open to citizens, governments, businesses, and special interests from almost every country on earth. In 2016, a Russian firm called the Internet Research Agency used multiple fake social media accounts and Facebook pages to disseminate information designed to manipulate American voters. The number of other foreign entities that have already – or may in the future – employ similar tactics is unknowable.
The very idea, then, that foreign governments or other interested parties can be prevented from attempting to sway a presidential election is laughable. Far more important is ensuring that neither foreign nor domestic entities have the capability of compromising the voting process itself.
The Real Election Integrity Issue
Given their fierce resistance to photo ID laws, Democrats have little credibility when they speak of protecting the integrity of elections. Even more egregious is the suggestion by some Democrats, including at least one presidential candidate, that illegal aliens be allowed to vote in America. A more blatant and pervasive example of foreign interference in U.S. elections could not possibly be imagined.
What of Trump’s admission that he would want to see information offered by a foreign power? Why would he not want to see it? Why would any candidate not want to see it? The important thing is whether or not the information provided is verifiable, or whether it is disinformation. The other question is what the campaign receiving the information does with it.
Fair to Bring Up Clinton and the Dossier?
During the 2016 election season, the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign funneled payments to a research firm that, in turn, hired a foreign former spy to compile opposition research on then-candidate Trump. The knots in which Democrats and their media apologists are now tying themselves to draw a distinction between what Trump said and what Clinton did are amusing, to say the least.
Democrats argue that, firstly, the Clinton campaign paid an American firm to gather opposition research and, secondly, that the man who collected compromising information about Trump immediately handed it over to the FBI.
There are a few flaws in these excuses, though. Are Democrats arguing that it is acceptable to obtain politically sensitive information from a foreign power so long as it is obtained through an American intermediary? That would seem like a pretty weak defense. If a campaign pays an American firm which then hires a foreign individual to obtain opposition research from another country – an adversarial foreign government, no less – the end result is the same. That campaign has still accepted information from a foreign government with the intention of using it to influence an election.
The salacious allegations against Trump compiled by Christopher Steele came mostly from Russian government sources. That information was never verified and, although Steele did provide his “dossier” to the FBI, he also shopped it around to the American media. The FBI itself did nothing to prevent this unverified, foreign-sourced, compromising information from being disseminated publicly.
How willing would even a friendly foreign power be to speak candidly with any American president or presidential candidate if they knew everything they said would be reported to the FBI?
Another important question is this: If a foreign power had verifiable proof that a certain American politician – especially one who is running for president – had been involved in some nefarious or illegal act, would not the American voter be entitled to know that? If such information were offered and refused, would that not be tantamount to influencing an election, assuming that knowledge of the improper behavior might cause some voters to rethink their intentions?
There is also the fear that, should an American presidential candidate obtain compromising information from a foreign source, the candidate is then open to coercion by that source. One could certainly make the case that it is important to reduce the ability of foreign powers to essentially bribe – or even to buy – American politicians. This is where things get sticky for the president if he is suggesting that he might not necessarily inform the FBI, were he to receive an offer of information from a foreign national.
For this very reason, however, it is even more important to scrutinize the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier and how the Bureau used it – without verifying the authenticity of the information – to initiate surveillance of an American citizen. If the nation’s premier law enforcement agency cannot be trusted to properly handle such information – or, worse still, is willing to weaponize it for political purposes – then the entire safeguard against foreign influence is compromised.
In the final analysis, the 2016 presidential election was compromised by a foreign government; one candidate obtained disinformation from foreign sources, which was then used to disrupt the election and sow great discord and recrimination throughout the political establishment.
The real issue in 2016 was the utter irresponsibility with which information paid for by the Clinton campaign was handled. Where that information came from is a secondary issue; that it was recklessly used and disseminated, without verification, was the primary transgression.
If Trump’s 2020 opponent is approached by a foreign power with an offer to provide information that could sabotage the president’s re-election chances, does anyone really believe that he or she would not want to obtain that information? Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has already accepted an approach from a Russian national offering compromising photographs of the president. The fact that this offer turned out to be a prank is neither here nor there; Schiff took steps to obtain these non-existent images.
Real Motive Behind the Outrage
The president may have done himself no favors by indulging in hypotheticals, but he has a point. Foreign influence of voters is impossible to prevent. Information offered by foreign powers should not be ignored (but it should be analyzed and handled responsibly), and the FBI has not proven itself to be capable of responsibly handling such information.
What is all the outrage really about, then? As Liberty Nation’s Sarah Cowgill points out, Democrats are creating the narrative that Trump will conspire with a foreign power to steal the 2020 presidency. His chances of re-election are extremely good, and Democrats are already preparing the ground to delegitimize the 2020 result.
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