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Vox Sentences: Making sense of the allegations that Russia “hacked the election”

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Russian hackers, Donald Trump, and the 2016 election, explained.

Previously, on The Americans...

Putin Getty / Mikhail Svetlov
  • Both the White House and Congress are working to investigate allegations that the Russian government deliberately, and successfully, tampered with the 2016 presidential campaign to install Donald Trump as president of the United States. [Vox / Matt Yglesias]
  • This is being described as Russia "hacking the election" — but that's really misleading. No one, so far, has come up with evidence that Russia actually affected any vote totals.
  • Rather, the allegations concern activities we knew about before the election: that teams of Russian-affiliated hackers, in operations "Lazy Bear" and "Fancy Bear," hacked into the email servers of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, then turned over those emails to WikiLeaks — which leaked them, in dribs and drabs, throughout the campaign. [BuzzFeed News / Sheera Frankel]
  • (Because of how close the election was, it's possible these hacks gave Donald Trump the edge. But it's also possible a million other things did.)
  • Before the election, the US intelligence community agreed Russia was trying to tamper with the campaign — but didn't think it was trying to favor one candidate. After the election, however, the CIA came to the conclusion that, at least by the campaign's end, Russia was actively trying to help Trump. [Washington Post / Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller]
  • The crucial clue: The Republican National Committee was reportedly also hacked ... but those emails, unlike the Democratic ones, stayed private. [NYT / Max Fisher]
  • The FBI disagrees with the CIA's assessment — which could be a matter of simple bureaucratic culture clash, or could indicate that one agency is being partisan (a prospect that seems especially salient given the controversy over the FBI's treatment of its investigation into Clinton's email server). [Washington Post / Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous]
  • Russian tampering emphatically does not necessarily mean that Donald Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin. Yes, outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says Trump's campaign was colluding with the Russians, but Harry Reid says a lot of things. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • Putin has ideological reasons to support the rising tide of nationalist populism in the US and Europe — partly as a rebuke to Western cosmopolitanism, and partly because the new nationalists are less interested in challenging Russia's regional dominance. [France24 / Khatya Chhor]
  • But the incoming Trump administration's ties with Russia might go deeper. Trump's likely secretary of state, for instance, was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin for his efforts at the helm of Exxon Mobil. [CNN Money / Matt Egan, Julia Horowitz, and Chris Isidore]
  • And the fact that Trump continues to claim that we don't even know who was behind the hacks (ignoring evidence from the intelligence briefings he's reportedly skipping) is certainly suspicious. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • It's enough to get congressional Republicans to break with their president-elect in endorsing an investigation. But while some members of Congress want a special select committee, leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are confident that existing committees will be able to handle the investigation at their own pace. [Politico / Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett]

Clinton campaign puts its faith in the "faithless electors"

John Podesta David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
  • Hillary Clinton's campaign is taking its case to the Electoral College — sort of. In a statement Monday, campaign chair John Podesta argued that the electors who really choose America's next president should get to hear the intelligence briefings about possible Russian interference in the election before the body votes on December 19. [CNN / Dan Merica]
  • Podesta didn't say directly that the electors should vote for Clinton. But he was throwing the campaign's weight behind an open letter published Monday by 10 electors — nine Democrats and one Republican — who had asked to hear from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about what is currently classified information from America's intelligence agencies about Russian hacking. [ExtraNewsFeed]
  • All of this movement is firing (what is almost certainly) a false sense of hope among liberals desperate for any sign that the Trump presidency is not really on its way. Only one Republican elector has expressed interest in defying the Electoral College results, and it would take 36 more of them to become so-called "faithless electors" and break ranks. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Moreover, even if enough electors broke away to prevent Trump from getting to 270 votes, the race would probably just be thrown to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives ... which would presumably just vote for Trump anyway. [Twitter / Amy Walter]
  • To realize just how outlandish the scenario is, consider who the Trump-supporting electors are: Republican loyalists chosen by their state parties because of their fealty to the GOP. In addition to civil fines, they would face intense public pressure for an essentially unprecedented violation of modern American political tradition. [Vox / Jeff Stein]
  • That doesn't answer the question of why we're stuck with the Electoral College and can't break its hold over the American electorate. The short answer: partisanship, slavery, and the legacy of the Founding Fathers. [New York Times / Jonathan Mahler and Steve Eder]

Taiwan: part of China, or the world's biggest bargaining chip?

Factory worker in China Southern Metropolis Daily / Chen Wencai via Getty
  • President-elect Trump suggested Sunday that he would be unwilling to treat Taiwan as part of China (the "One China" policy followed by 40 years of presidents) unless China agreed to other things, like renegotiating trade deals. [Reuters / Caren Bohan and David Brunnstrom]
  • China has not exactly responded warmly to this. To the contrary, it's said that if Trump abandons the One China policy, it will refuse to discuss anything else. [FT / Tom Mitchell, Yuan Yang and Lucy Hornby]
  • This was pretty foreseeable. The One China policy has been the rhetorical bedrock of US/China relations for decades for a reason. China experts agree that, if pushed, the country is much more likely to get aggressive with Trump than it is to concede. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • So far, China is operating with caution. The subtext of its statements is that Trump will change his tune once he's inaugurated in January and will recognize the fundamental importance of retaining harmony with China. [NPR / Rob Schmitz]
  • There's some reason to believe that; after all, Trump's nominee for ambassador to China wants a tighter relationship between the two countries. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • But China isn't holding its breath, either. It filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization Monday against both the US and the European Union, arguing that it's being penalized unfairly with tariffs for "dumping" cheap steel. [WSJ / Mark Magnier]
  • And if Trump does take the aggressive stance toward China that he's repeatedly hinted he will, China has ways to push back — like dumping the rest of the US Treasury bonds it holds. [NYT / Jane Perlez]



  • "While Ben had emerged as the cancer center’s celebrity, I’d begun to feel like the outcast." [Washingtonian / Luke Mullins]
  • "'Before 9/11, he was different'” said Jones, a liberal who fondly remembered discussing philosophy with Bannon. 'He talked about Plato and Socrates all the time.' At one point the pair developed a proposal for a TV show to feature philosophers from a wide range of traditions, including non-European mystics and shamans." [LAT / Matt Pearce]
  • "Most importantly: I’m frustrated that this kind of thing happens all the time, that we carry these experiences curled in our chests like gnarled nests of pain." [Medium / Caroline Framke]
  • "For 30 years, it was just assumed that using male crash test dummies would suffice, even though women are typically smaller than men and the smaller a person is the less force they can tolerate in a crash." [The Atlantic / Marianne Cooper]
  • "Scrooge, by living in three sparse rooms, deprived no man of a home." [Slate / Steven E. Landsburg]

Watch this: The US may be aiding war crimes in Yemen

The US is helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen, and it's a disaster. [YouTube / Vox]

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