Local Commentary

Editorial: Russian Tampering Was Pro-Trump

Kudos to U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia for sounding the alarm on continued Russian “active measures” in the U.S. and elsewhere aimed at disrupting our democratic elections. It was important for him and his Senate Intelligence Committee chair to step out now, in advance of the Virginia elections next month, to remind and alert everyone to this active operation. He rightfully hailed the actions taken in September by the Virginia Board of Elections to aggressively decertify a variety of voting machines that fail to provide a “paper trail” option, such as the machines used since 2005 in the City of Falls Church.

Also importantly, they said that the matter of whether or not there was any collusion between the Russians and their preferred candidate, Donald Trump, in the November 2016 presidential election still has yet to be determined.

But in commenting on the content of the $100s of thousands in ads, seen by 10s of millions, placed by the Russians on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr misspoke when he said that all those ads were indiscriminate in their content, aimed solely at sowing discord and chaos, and did not appear to prefer one candidate over any other. That assessment badly contradicts other intelligence that has demonstrated the clear preference of the Russians for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and reflects a basic misunderstanding of the nature of the Russians’ modus operandi.

An irrational hate-infused “helter skelter” approach to the ads had a number of calculated effects, including an attempt to disguise their true intent. But otherwise, when taken in the context of their intended targets, the ad contents become clearer. For example, among their targets were specifically those voters in the critical states of Wisconsin and Michigan, where Clinton held a narrow but solid lead. The ads provided “cover” for a more comprehensive and collateral effort to twist and distort the wills of prospective voters. In any situation where a favorite, or leader, is the target of an upset effort, the use of “helter skelter” electoral chaos always works to the benefit of the upset. Hopefully, this will become clearer as the actual content of the ads becomes known and evaluated.

On a related point, as U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) also stated on CNN, it is “impossible” for intelligence officials to know whether or not actual votes were tampered with in the election. That is why, in a cautionary move, the Virginia Board of Elections moved to swiftly last month to decertify all voting machines that did not include a “paper trail.” It was determined in a computer conference this summer that all such machines could be hacked without leaving evidence.

It is unclear why the intelligence community would make such a claim, unless it was for the purpose of maintaining social stability until such a point that evidence of such tampering can or cannot be substantiated.