Monday, January 9, 2017

Trump's surrogates admit it was Russia. That isn't necessarily a good thing.

You may have missed this if you don't watch the Sunday talk shows.  Incidentally, you should never watch the Sunday talk shows.  I don't.  I just read the write-ups when something interesting happens.  Much faster and less painful that way.

Anywho, Chris Wallace got Reince Priebus to admit that Russia was behind the DNC hacks.  It took repeated questioning, and Wallace made sure that Priebus didn't leave himself any rhetorical wiggle room in his eventual answer.  The formal position of the Trump administration is now that Russia was behind the hacks.

There must be a certain satisfaction among those residing in the fact-based universe that the Trump people are finally admitting what everyone has known since last summer, and getting Trump to admit even basic facts is never easy.

But this isn't a victory.

It is now the formal position of the Trump administration that Putin helped get Trump elected.  That makes diplomatic relations between Trump and Putin really hard.  It automatically puts Trump in a subordinate position.  Would he have been anyway?  Well, that's hard to say.  Trump doesn't really want much.  Mostly, he just wants to be feted.  Prior to this admission, though, there was pretense, and the pretense was diplomatically useful.  That pretense is now gone.

The irony, of course, is that there was never any reason to believe that the Russia hacks had any real influence on the outcome.  Wikileaks put out their data dump right before the Democratic Convention, and caused a bit of a stir, leading mostly to the sacking of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, but Clinton's polling numbers went up after the convention, so there was never any evidence of the hacks doing any damage to Clinton in the race.  Of course, one could argue that she would have gotten a bigger polling bounce from the convention without the hacks, but there isn't a shred of evidence to support that.

Compare that to Comey and his meddling.  Comey announced that he was reopening the FBI investigation of Clinton two weeks before the election, and the polling numbers moved "bigly," as Trump would say.  Big enough to sway the upper-midwest states that surprisingly pulled Trump over the edge in the electoral college.

So, no, Trump does not owe his presidency to Putin the way he does to Comey.  But, the admission from Priebus puts Trump in a very awkward diplomatic position.  It would have been awkward anyway, but now?

There are consequences here, and they aren't necessarily good.

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