Exactly what did the Russians do to interfere in the 2016 election, and what should we do about it?
The House and Senate Intelligence committees held separate hearings last week to consider those questions, and the answers were unsettling.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House committee that the Russian government orchestrated cyber attacks on the U.S. “for the purpose of influencing our election.”
Over on the Senate side, witnesses from the FBI and Homeland Security, along with state elections officials, testified that cyber-hacking had no effect on voting machines or vote-tallying equipment, and the outcome of the election was not altered by any kind of cyber intrusion.
But back in the House, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, was concerned that the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s server, and the “dumping” of information from it, may have affected American public opinion. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, was concerned about Russian propaganda efforts.
“How do you protect against false news stories?” Stewart asked Johnson. “How do you encourage a gullible press to be more mature in their judgment, more defined in their judgments, rather than play into Russian hands?”
The former Homeland Security secretary answered by saying, “God bless the First Amendment,” and then complaining about freedom of speech.
“You know, anybody with a keyboard now and access to the Internet can say virtually anything they want about any public official in this room and you have little or no recourse,” he told the lawmakers.
Johnson groused that there are “so many people out there who call themselves journalists, who can say virtually anything without fact checking” and then there are “a whole lot of people who rely on that information.”
Stewart interrupted to add, “It’s not just those who call themselves journalists; in too many cases they are actual journalists.” He said “some formerly reliable media…