All these weeks later, and still the words “President-elect Trump” have not lost their power to shock, even when uttered in the narcotic tones of the hosts of National Public Radio. Soon enough, those of us who can bear it will watch as he speaks the words “I, Donald John Trump…”
Far from becoming easier to process, what seemed incomprehensible the night of November 8 has only become more so. This is for numerous reasons, but the chief one is clearly that Trump will take the oath of office under suspicions about his legitimacy far greater than those faced by any modern president. We learned—conveniently for Trump, after the election—that the CIA holds “the consensus view” that Russia intervened to elect him and defeat Hillary Clinton. That revelation came from The Washington Post on December 9. The next day, The New York Times added the astonishing detail that Russia, according to the paper’s sources, had hacked Republican Party e-mail servers as well as Democratic ones—but had made no effort to go public with the Republican information, as it did with the Democratic hacks, which it delivered straight to Clinton-hater Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. He then published Clinton-related e-mails for thirty-three straight days leading up to the vote, which the press reprinted more or less uncritically.
As I write these words, the intelligence itself has not been released, so it should be noted that we’re relying on these news accounts, their unnamed sources, and the cautious and usually reliable reporters who talk to the intelligence agencies. But if their reports are accurate, what this amounts to at the very least is that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor. Whether it managed to determine that outcome by meddling directly in the actual voting is something we don’t know and will likely never know. To arrive at such a conclusion would require a thorough forensic investigation of vote tabulations in at least the three states where Trump’s margin over Clinton was less than one percent—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—and other steps; but this is not going to happen.
The Republicans would never allow it.1 But in the wake of the Post and Times revelations, several Republicans said a probe into the Russian hacking was warranted—not just senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who can usually be counted on to take a bipartisan position on such matters, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch…
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