A year ago, I took a little flak in a Slugger article for suggesting Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 election might not have been won fairly and squarely. It was pointed out that Trump scored a decisive victory by the Electoral College rules, and it is fair to say, (as he did), he would have fought the campaign differently had it depended on winning the popular vote. While the story as yet to fully unravel, we know much more now than we did a year ago.
To begin with, It has been shown that many electronic voting machines in the US are extremely vulnerable to hacking, so much so, some states are returning to paper ballots to protect the integrity of the democratic process.[i] No less a body than the National Security Agency said:
‘ … despite recent denials by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the NSA is convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.’[ii]
So far, smoke but no fire, no one has been able to say ‘X’ amount of votes were altered but if any hacking was done properly, it would be impossible to quantify it. What is clear and becoming clearer by the day, is that there were numerous meetings between members of the Trump Team and the Russian government before the election and that General Flynn, who was a senior member of the Trump team, has admitted lying to the FBI about such contacts, begging the obvious question, ‘Why lie if there is nothing to hide?’
Setting that aside, no one can accuse the Republican Party of not pulling out all the stops to win. In the states they control, voter suppression laws were introduced, supposedly to stop voter fraud, but in reality to make it more difficult for likely Democratic voters – African-Americans, other minorities and young college students – to actually vote. Taking North Carolina, a key battleground state as an example, concerns were raised that was exactly what the GOP was up. One Democrat declared a few days before the election:
‘To those in North Carolina, the pattern of purging voter rolls is reminiscent of efforts to curtail the black vote through strict voter ID laws struck down by a federal court earlier this year for targeting African Americans “with almost surgical precision”. The supreme court denied a request in August to reinstate the law.’[iii]
Wisconsin, a traditionally Blue state, was a huge victory for Trump and perhaps the biggest surprise result of the election, but was Trump helped by the fact that 200,000 voters, again mostly likely-Democratic voters, were purged from the electoral register?[iv] As Trump won the state by 22,748 votes it seems more than possible. Evidence has also surfaced to show Trump was assisted an army of Russian-based bots and trolls. To quote Newsweek:
‘One infamous fake account, TEN_GOP, presented itself as an outlet run by Tennessee Republicans and tweeted a legitimate report of a single voting machine glitch in Pennsylvania as: “BREAKING: Machine Refuses to Allow Vote For Trump in Pennsylvania!!,” with the hashtag #VoterFraud.
That tweet alone amassed 14,000 retweets by the end of the day, alongside a handful of other similar posts, TEN_GOP propelled itself to the seventh most mentioned Twitter account on Election Day, according to George Washington University.
Twitter has subsequently unveiled it as one of over 2,000 fake accounts operated from the St. Petersburg [Troll] farm.’
The article went on to say:
‘Google, Twitter and Facebook have since estimated the full reach of Russian influence during the campaign could have reached up to 126 million Americans on Facebook and published around 131,000 Twitter messages.’[v]
President Putin denies any Russian involvement, which doesn’t say much as he would deny it anyway regardless as to whether it is true or not, though he did quip:
‘If they (hackers) are patriotically-minded, they start to make their own contribution to what they believe is the good fight against those who speak badly about Russia. Is that possible? Theoretically it is possible.’[vi]
It is impossible to say if voter suppression, hacking and black propaganda from the Russian intelligence services won the election for Trump but given what we now know and the almost daily revelations from the Mueller inquiry, can anyone apart from the most blinkered Trump supporter say the election result was not unduly influenced? That it had no discernable effect? Is Trump in fact, a legitimate president?
Any criticism of Trump, any fact he dislikes, he dismisses as ‘fake news’ while he tweets and retweets things without any regard for their accuracy or veracity – the recent Britain First video, an odious example of material designed to whip-up hatred against Muslims, being one obvious example. Fox News has become a de-facto propaganda mouthpiece for the White House which Trump endorses and openly promotes.
The usual laws of politics don’t apply to Trump, including so far, sexual and financial scandals and the US constitution. President Carter had to sell his Peanut farm in Georgia so that he would not fall foul of the emoluments clause of the US constitution, Trump however, shamelessly uses his position to promote his personal businesses. His tendency to golf nearly every weekend at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort has cost the Secret Service $137,000 in the rent of golf carts alone – money that goes into the Trump-owned business.[vii]
There is nothing normal about this president, not in the way he came to power, not in his willingness to dismiss inconvenient facts, to fabricate ‘statistics’, repeat fictional terrorist massacres, nor in his hatred of a free press, his contempt for America’s allies (except Israel), his defence of racist and Nazi groups and disregard of minority rights. Nor, dare I say it, will there be anything normal about his inevitable demise.
Sam Thompson is an occasional blogger, writer and historian, his latest book is ‘The Lesser Evil: A Political & Military History of World War II 1937-45‘.
You can find him on Twitter at: @JarrieSam