The United States' intelligence community released a document Friday that makes the claim the Russian government had a “preference” for future president Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
The media are drawing sweeping conclusions from the report that aren't substantiated by the known facts.
Among its key findings:
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.
We can only make one clear conclusion from this statement: The Russians had a “preference” for Donald Trump, because he was not Hillary Clinton.
There is nothing in the intelligence documents released thus far to ascertain the nature of that preference; indeed, any Republican might have been preferred. It is unclear.
While the U.S. media cast aspersions about the President-elect's ties to the Putin regime, this is a charge that has been cleared by The FBI after lengthy investigation.
Secondly, there is still no hard evidence tying the Putin regime to the hacks released by WikiLeaks—we still have to take the intel community's word for it.
As a HuffPo writer put it:
It is vital to point out what the New York Times reported following the election on this matter:
The Russians were as surprised as everyone else at Mr. Trump’s victory, intelligence officials said. Had Mrs. Clinton won, they believe, emails stolen from the Democratic committee and from senior members of her campaign could have been used to undercut her legitimacy. The intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia tried to help Mr. Trump was first reported by The Washington Post.
If the Russians were calculating that Hillary Clinton was likely to win, then intelligence operations intended to harm her would necessarily be undermining her presidency; they would also exhibit a “preference” for Donald Trump.
The preference between the two major candidates likely to win the presidency would exhibit an interdependent relationship; Donald Trump would be the beneficiary of any targeted attacks on Hillary Clinton, and vice versa.
The intel document continues:
We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
Further context shows how the intelligence operations changed over the course of the presidential campaign:
Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.
Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.
The Russian intelligence operations included “overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or 'trolls.'”
The document goes on to show Russia's media operations in support of Donald Trump and in opposition to Hillary Clinton. Again, the intelligence document merely shows The Kremlin's messaging about the election about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which varied over the course of the campaign.
The Russians' goal for the U.S. for decades has been to undermine democracy and fuel internal political conflict. It has sought to weaken the United States by dividing it from within, then reaping the geopolitical gains abroad.
What is surprising in these intelligence memos, which the press is jumping on to undermine the legitimacy of the future president, is how little new information they actually contain.
It is damning that the Russians' goal of dividing the nation from within is being carried out flawlessly by a U.S. media quick to jump to conclusions without the demonstrable facts.