December 10, 2016
Two weeks after the White House gave its seal of approval to the election results, President Obama has ordered a “full review” of possible Russian hacking at the ballot box. But there’s only one conclusion to draw: either the outgoing administration has terrible timing or Obama is a sore loser.
Without evidence of foul play, the latter seems more likely. Additional and needless eleventh-hour scrutiny erodes the validity of the contest. And by ordering a review, the president is diminishing the electoral institution and playing into the hands of the Russian government.
To be sure, long before Election Day in America, hackers in Russia were busy flexing their muscles. They hacked into the DNC’s email servers, airing the digital dirty laundry of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
According to the White House, though, that digital saber rattling was more about changing American perceptions of the election, not the ballot count. In a Nov. 25 statement to the New York Times, the administration noted that Russia used the hacks to “raise questions about the integrity of the election process” in an effort “that could’ve underlined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”
And there’s no indication that the Kremlin cracked the ballot box. In the weeks after the election, Democrats admitted as much. After conducting its own investigation, Clinton’s campaign announced it hadn’t “uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking.” And the case seemed closed when the White House announced that “we stand behind our election results.”
Thanks to federalism and outdated technology, hacking the voting booth is probably impossible. In the 50 states, the electoral process is handled by state, county and local governments. As a result, that decentralization has created a diversity of systems too great for any single actor to tackle. What’s more, American voting machines never connect to the Internet.
“Nobody is going to be able to change the outcome of the presidential vote by hacking voting machines,” concluded Nicholas Weaver, a cybersecurity expert at Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute, during a comprehensive CNN takedown of the hacked election myth.
But while the facts haven’t changed, the politics have evolved since Election Day. Led by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democrats have demanded an independent commission, like the congressional probe after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, to investigate Russian interference. And now Obama has descended into the partisanship.
The president has ordered a full review of any and all hacking activity. Essentially, Obama is asking his administration to find evidence that two weeks ago he said didn’t exist. And he wants it on his desk by Jan. 20 before he exits the Oval Office. In doing so, the outgoing executive has again thrown the election results into question.
Elections are hard, especially the circus that was 2016. But it’s time Democrats and the president accept the results like everyone else.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.