by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Let me be clear: Do I think it’s possible Russia tried to influence the outcome of our elections? Absolutely. In fact, I consider it quite likely. Not because of the unsubstantiated conclusions made in the press, but because intelligence officials I trust tell me that Russia and other nations have attempted to influence our elections for decades, the same way we’ve often dabbled in influencing foreign elections.
However, the disproportionate media and political attention paid to Russia’s alleged efforts in 2016—and to the Russia threat generally—smacks of politics and propaganda. For example, top former Obama intel sources tell me they consider N. Korea, by far, the biggest foreign threat to the U.S. today. But N. Korea is barely mentioned in news reports. These intel officials put Iran and China next on the threat list—both, again, rarely discussed on the news, relative to Russia. The intel experts also mention ISIS and Islamist extremist terrorism as higher on the list than Russia.
Further, when it comes to election-tampering, some intel sources consider China to be a more egregious, proven offender. If you’ve watched politics a little while, you may remember the scandal broken by The Washington Post in 1996. The Post reported evidence of China directing contributions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the presidential contest between Bill Clinton and Republican Bob Dole—a violation of U.S. law. Eventually, Taiwan-born Maria Hsia, a fundraiser for Clinton Vice President Al Gore, was convicted of illegal campaign fundraising; Taiwan-born Charlie Trie was convicted of improperly attempting to give large donations to the Clinton’s legal defense fund; Taiwan-born Johnny Chung was convicted of violating election law after making large donations to the DNC (which were later returned); and Chinese-born John Huang—a DNC fundraiser and Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration—was convicted of campaign finance fraud.