During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, former FBI Director James Comey often sounded measured and dispassionate — but when it came to talking about the significance of the Russian cyberattacks in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, he got worked up.
Asked by Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, to discuss why the Russian hacks were such a big deal, Comey was strikingly animated:
The reason this is such a big deal is, we have this big messy wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time. But nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful.
But we’re talking about a foreign government that, using technical intrusion and lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act.
That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face of the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. So they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible.
That’s what this is about, and they will be back. Because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don’t like it.
Comey’s point: America can be a mess, but it’s our mess. And Russia tried to mess with it.
But Trump has not shown interest in the precedent set by Russia’s cyberattacks. Instead, he’s been fixated on discouraging the FBI investigation into links between his campaign and Moscow — something that’s backfired terribly for him.