Unfortunately, the first family remains in denial about this. President Trump, who benefited from the interference, says the investigation was a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, dismissed it as a “distraction” at a panel sponsored by Time magazine on Tuesday. He said, “You look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing. But I think the investigations, and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years, has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.” He added, “Quite frankly, the whole thing is just a big distraction for the country.”
This is just plain wrong. Russia’s social media offensive originated at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, was financed by a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and developed themes and tactics to use on social media to help Mr. Trump and disparage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. According to the report, Facebook identified 470 Internet Research Agency-controlled accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017, reaching as many as 126 million people. In January 2018, Twitter said it identified 3,814 Internet Research Agency-controlled Twitter accounts.
Two units of Russian military intelligence carried out a second prong of the Russian attack, breaching 29 computers at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and 30 computers of the Democratic National Committee. The operation siphoned 70 gigabytes of data from the DCCC file server and raided thousands of emails and attachments from the DNC, including its opposition research on Mr. Trump. The Russians also used spear-phishing to break into Ms. Clinton’s campaign and stole tens of thousands of emails; they organized rallies on divisive topics; planted malware in election equipment systems; and disseminated materials to harm Ms. Clinton’s candidacy.
Not just “a couple of Facebook ads.”
The false reading of history matters because the White House should be leading the nation’s defense against another possible assault on election integrity. But how can Mr. Trump and his team do so if they cannot acknowledge what already happened? The New York Times reports that Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff is wary of bringing before the president any proposals to prevent Russia from further interference. That amounts to a dereliction of duty.