America may need to ‘vote again,’ says former CIA operative Robert Baer – preferably in a plebiscite not orchestrated by Vladimir Putin. The spy-turned-author spoke to CNN on Saturday about the latest reports of Kremlin skulduggery to elect Donald Trump. While there is no evidence that hackers fiddled with electronic voting systems or ballot-counting machines, the CIA has concluded with ‘high confidence’ that Russian-backed hackers were actively out to sink Hillary Clinton, according to unnamed officials speaking to the Washington Post and the NewYork Times.
If true, the reports add motive to mischief already known. In October the Department of Homeland Security said all 17 US intelligence agencies (yes, 17) are ‘confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions,’ and that ‘the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.’
This is alarming stuff, unless you’re Donald Trump. ‘I think it’s ridiculous,’ the president-elect told Fox News Sunday when asked about the reports. ‘I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.’
That may explain President Obama’s rush-order for a ‘full review of the pattern of malicious cyber activity,’ which White House flak Eric Schultz announced on Friday. Obama wants the report before he leaves office on January 20, Schultz said, stressing that the investigation ‘is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the  election’ but rather to ‘make sure that we have the right defensive capabilities in place’ to prevent future intrusions.
In their own statement, bipartisan Senate leaders called for a Congressional investigation to ‘examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks.’ These are worthy goals, though Trump doesn’t see it that way. While allowing that ‘it could be Russia’ and ‘I don’t want anyone hacking us’, Trump told Fox he suspects all these reports are the product of disgruntled Democrats who are ‘putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.’ (They didn’t, mind you: Trump’s projected 56.9 per cent of the Electoral College vote would rank 44th out of 54 presidential wins, per the tally by FiveThirtyEight.com).
Meanwhile, on intelligence in general, Trump says he’s good. ‘You know, I’m like a smart person,’ he told Fox, explaining why he won’t be taking the daily intel briefs that all US presidents have received since 1961. ‘I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day.’
He also defended his decision to put his children in charge of the Trump Organisation rather than liquidate the business entirely. When Fox’s Chris Wallace asked how Trump would avoid the appearance of impropriety – precisely the sort for which he ‘hammered Hillary Clinton over the Clinton Foundation’ – Trump explained that ‘it’s totally different’ because Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr. are not Chelsea Clinton. Or..something:
They’re not — they’re not — they’re not President. I mean, they’re not President. But they’re not going to do it either. Oh, I see what you’re getting at. No, they’re not making deals either for my company…They’re not making deals. And they’re going to run my company. I have a lot of property and great stuff. They’re going to run it. They’re going to run it. Hopefully they’re going to run it properly. I’m sure they’re going to run it properly. But I’m not going to do deals. And I think, you know, I think that’s going to be good.
It’s this sort of blather that has so many Americans wishing for a constitutional crisis this Christmas. There is no precedent for redoing a US election on account of foreign agitprop, though there’s still a long-shot campaign to defeat Trump when the Electoral College meets on December 19. The Democrat-led effort would need at least 37 ‘faithless’ Republican electors to scupper Trump’s presidency. So far they’ve got one.
Nevertheless, while Trump chattered away on Fox, a few more thousand names ticked onto various petitions to prevent his inauguration. A three-day-old call to delay the Electoral College vote now has nearly 140,000 signatures. Petitions are constitutionally irrelevant and the date of the electoral vote is set by federal law. Still, it’s quite something to see the numbers jump every time the president-elect opens his mouth. Trump of course just wants ‘to get back to making America great again.’ We should all put aside our qualms about his fitness for office, conflicts of interest and Russian influence, he told Fox, because ‘I’m so focused on doing a great job as President.’ If so, he might consider acting like it – for starters by taking seriously the threat of foreign incursion. As it stands, Trump is doing more to undermine his impending presidency than sour-grape Democrats ever could.