President Trump said again this week that while Russia certainly “meddled” in the 2016 election, it had “no impact on our votes.”
He has a lot of ways of lying, and this one is perhaps slightly cleverer than most, because it contains a half-truth that makes it only a half-lie.
I assume that, if anyone could ask him enough questions to clarify what he meant, and keep asking them until he stopped evading them, he would end up admitting that “no impact on our votes” really means only that Russia didn’t penetrate into the system for actually counting the ballots that were cast. But, when he says “no impact on our votes,” he wants us to hear “no impact on the outcome.”
Two different things
Those are two different things. But, without being able to read his mind, I assume he intentionally conflates them in hopes of confusing us.
It’s true that, so far, no one has found solid evidence that Russia or any other miscreant actually found a way to hack into the technology for counting the votes and changing the official totals. And that’s good.
On the other hand, no honest person is still denying that Russia used various web-based methods of spreading messages — messages designed to be taken as honest intra-U.S. discussions of facts and arguments about the candidates and the issues — with the intention of influencing some Americans to vote for Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton.
I have little doubt that they succeeded in influencing some number of voters along those lines, but there is no way to know what that number is.
And, since the election was quite close (despite Trump’s frequent pitiful claims to have won by a big margin, notwithstanding his refusal to acknowledge that he received neither a majority nor even a plurality of the votes), and the number of votes that were influenced by the Russian effort is unknown, we have no ways of knowing whether it was enough to tilt the outcome. But neither can Trump claim to know that it didn’t.
It’s not just unknown, it’s unknowable.
Enthusiasm for Russia’s help
We do know that agents of Trump, up to and including his son, Donald Jr., expressed enthusiasm for receiving help from Russians who claimed to have dirt on Clinton. If that wasn’t treason, it was some steps down the path toward treason.
And, of course, the fact that the Russian government at least tried to help Trump win leaves open the question of why.
Anyway, my main purpose in this brief post is just to note that his “no impact on our votes” gag is a half-lie that’s supposed to be disguised enough to work as a half-truth.
I will tarry one paragraph longer to make a point that often occurs to me. Our outrage against the Russians for daring to interfere in our internal affairs even to the point of possibly changing our government should be complicated and even mitigated by this nasty fact: The United States has interfered, usually behind a cloak of secrecy, in the internal affairs of many other nations with the clear purpose of affecting the result of an election or undermining a government of which we disapproved, always for self-serving reasons.
We even did it to Russia in 1917-20 when U.S. troops occupied Russian territory without the consent of the Russian government, and despite the fact that we were on the same side as Russia in World I, in a period that stretched from the end of World War I and into the period of the Russian Civil War. Few Americans recall this. Most Russians do.