The Corner

White House

McConnell and Russian Election Interference

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addresses reporters on Capitol Hill in February 2012.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t bring legislation to the floor to protect special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation. The incident has inspired liberals to revive their complaints that McConnell put party before country in the last weeks of the 2016 election. The charge, which I have never quite understood, is based on a Washington Post report from December 9, 2016. The report concerns a mid-September meeting. Here’s the relevant passage:

[T]he White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.

Though U.S. intelligence agencies were skeptical that hackers would be able to manipulate the election results in a systematic way, the White House feared that Russia would attempt to do so, sowing doubt about the fundamental mechanisms of democracy and potentially forcing a more dangerous confrontation between Washington and Moscow. . . .

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

So . . . did Russian efforts to interfere with voter registration and balloting machines succeed because McConnell vetoed a statement? I have seen nothing to suggest they did. Did a failure by states to take federal help against Russian cyber-intrusion cause any adverse consequences at all? I’ll concede that doubt about democracy has been sown, but I don’t see how the bipartisan statement would have prevented that. Finally, was McConnell right to have doubts about the underlying intelligence, either because it turns out to have been overstated or because, while correct, it didn’t have much evidence behind it at the time? I don’t see how anyone can answer that question on the basis of what the Post story tells us.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Immigration

Angela Rye Knows You’re Racist

The political philosopher Michael Oakeshott said that the “rationalist” is hopelessly lost in ideology, captivated by the world of self-contained coherence he has woven from strands of human experience. He concocts a narrative about narratives, a story about stories, and adheres to the “large outline which ... Read More
Immigration

What the Viral Border-Patrol Video Leaves Out

In an attempt to justify Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s absurd comparison of American detention facilities to Holocaust-era concentration camps, many figures within the media have shared a viral video clip of a legal hearing in which a Department of Justice attorney debates a panel of judges as to what constitutes ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Pro-Abortion Nonsense from John Irving

The novelist has put up a lot of easy targets in his New York Times op-ed. I am going to take aim at six of his points, starting with his strongest one. First: Irving asserts that abortion was legal in our country from Puritan times until the 1840s, at least before “quickening.” That’s an overstatement. ... Read More
Film & TV

Murder Mystery: An Old Comedy Genre Gets Polished Up

I  like Adam Sandler, and yet you may share the sense of trepidation I get when I see that another of his movies is out. He made some very funny manboy comedies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy) followed by some not-so-funny manboy comedies, and when he went dark, in Reign over Me and Funny People, ... Read More