The Financial Express

What if the Russians hacked the US presidential election?

| Updated: October 25, 2017 05:19:01

Evaly and Fianancial Express Evaly and Fianancial Express
What if the Russians hacked the US presidential election?

The US Presidential election 2016 that elected Donald Trump as the 46th president of the country is a unique one in US history. It is not just that Donald Trump has got elected on an agenda that has made the Founding Fathers of America turn in their graves as he has turned their vision for the United States on its head to write his own vision that is the antithesis of theirs that has made the 2016 election exceptional. Donald Trump has won the election defeating the overwhelming favourite Hillary Clinton by just not fighting her and the Democratic Party but also his own Republican party and its top leadership.
The election was exceptional also because of Russia, the country's arch enemy in international relations. Russia was present all through like a dark shadow following every turn and twist of an election that witnessed those aspects of politics that in the past the United States thought was present in the third world countries in despair and without hope. For one, if the lies, distortions of facts and untruths dished out by the two candidates and their campaigns were collated, it would be enough to fill the pages required to bring out a full-fledged book of intrigues, conspiracies, and falsehoods. 
And since Donald Trump became the president-elect, Americans have been scratching their heads to explain to themselves how such an unexpected result occurred. Various explanations have been given. One that many have accepted is that the fear-mongering by Donald Trump that unless white America came together against the immigrants, the country would be taken away from them. The racial call attracted not just the supporters of the Republican Party, white blue-collar workers belonging to the Democratic Party also crossed party line and voted for Donald Trump, particularly in the Rust Belt of Wisconsin, Michigan and Philadelphia where the election was decided.
Even the race factor is not fully ending the debate over the election result. The suspicion that the Russians, led by President Vladimir Putin, played a dubious role in the outcome of the election against Hillary Clinton and in favour of Donald Trump was always there during the election campaign. In fact, it was more than a suspicion as both President Putin and Donald Trump, in particular, left no one in doubt that something mysterious was going on between the two.
The fascination and the praises of Donald Trump for President Putin as a leader were something that the Americans would have considered possible only in a nightmare. Yet such has been the absurd nature of this presidential election that the US media and the US public went into denial that the candidate of one of the two major political parties, i.e., Donald Trump, was deriding their two-time president with one of the best popularity ratings and humiliating him by openly suggesting that he was a far worse leader than Putin. 
In fact, Donald Trump went to the extent of openly inviting the Russians to hack into the web-based network and database of the Democratic Party! That invitation is now coming back at the president-elect to haunt him as the question is now being raised in many quarters whether the Russians had indeed hacked into the US Internet networks to help Donald Trump win the elections.
Soon after the election, top computer scientists of the country urged the Democratic Party to seek a recount of votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania because they "believe they have found evidence that vote totals in the three states could have been manipulated or hacked and presented their findings to top Clinton aides." It was a finger pointing that resonated among many others in the country.
Following the computer scientists, the CIA came forward to make the same accusations about Russian hacking and interference in the US presidential election. A senior US government official stated in Washington that led by the CIA, "US intelligence analysts have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the US electoral system." In fact, in the Congress, even some Republican members have asked for an investigation to clear the air of an accusation that would be necessary to restore credibility in the US electoral system and more importantly, clear doubts about the legitimacy of the victory of Donald Trump.
The issue of Russian interference to help Donald Trump become the President through hacking is indeed an extremely serious one. President Obama, taking this seriousness into consideration, has issued an order instructing relevant agencies of the government to conduct a full-fledged investigation to determine whether there is any truth to the accusations of Russian hacking and interference to help Donald Trump win and defeat Hillary Clinton.
The accusation from US intelligence agencies that Russian hacking has helped Donald Trump win the election has made the transition team of the president-elect wary as was evident from its reaction. It issued a statement that did not address the accusation. Instead, it ridiculed the intelligence agencies by stating "these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction…the election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and Make America Great Again." 
Donald Trump's victory was not "one of the greatest Electoral College victories". Instead of being able to dismiss the accusation with substantive evidence and argument, the statement underlined a sense of nervousness about the issue of Russian hacking and interference. The issue could open a Pandora's box pushing the country towards great uncertainty that could, apart from many other things, make America look like a banana republic. And with President Obama's order to the intelligence agencies, the official investigation is under way, one in which as stated, even Republican Congress members are interested.
US presidential election 2016 has been eerie and surreal. Therefore, there could still be a twist in the tale but it is a twist that no one is even daring to discuss let alone predict its outcome. What if the investigation President Obama has ordered were to turn about positive about Russian involvement and hacking to help Donald Trump win? 
President Putin had enough reasons to help Donald Trump. Donald Trump adored him. Compared to Hillary Clinton's mastery over international politics, Donald Trump had demonstrated naivety over these issues. During the campaign at critical moments, Russian intelligence working in league with Edward Snowden of WikiLeaks had leaked emails about Hillary Clinton clearly intended to damage her and help Donald Trump. The array of evidence suggests that President Putin openly played a role to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Therefore, in an election where so many unexpected things have happened, it is just possible that the investigations of the US intelligence agencies would establish Russian interference in the US presidential election. If such involvement were to reveal what the top computer scientists have told the Democratic Party in the context of the election in the Rush Belt, then the US politics would face a situation that it must deal where the constitution or the laws would be no guide whatsoever. 
Meanwhile, to make matters worse for him, Donald Trump is considering making former EXXON Chief Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State. Rex Tillerson had worked for EXXON's expansion in Russia and had opposed western, including American, sanctions against it following its seizure of Crimea. President Putin awarded him Russia's Order of Friendship that is the country's highest civilian award. Therefore, it may be a little while longer before the curtain on US presidential election 2016 is finally drawn. Notwithstanding what happens with the investigation President Obama has ordered, Donald Trump has already become the most controversial candidate ever to win a US presidential election.
The writer is a former Ambassador.
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