During the meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin, Mr Trump apparently raised the issue of alleged Russian meddling in the US election last year. According to Rex Tillerson, Mr Putin asked Mr Trump if he could produce some evidence to prove the claim. Mr Trump was unable and, according to both Mr Tillerson and then Mr Putin at a later press conference, Mr Trump was satisfied.
But of course not everyone was. The idea of Mr Trump accepting or even appearing to accept Mr Putin’s denial of electoral interference has been met with rage in some quarters. Indeed it is a small wonder that Senator John McCain has not yet imploded. One such chap, is Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader. He took to Twitter to vent his spleen (picking up Mr Trump’s bad habits perhaps?), and what he said was actually very revealing, if you have eyes to see it. Here it is:
“President Trump had an obligation to bring up Russia’s interference in our election with Putin, but he has an equal obligation to take the word of our intelligence community rather than that of the Russian president. To give equal credence to the findings of the American intelligence community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future.”
Okay, so put your logician’s hats on and let’s examine this. Here are a series of simple, factual statements relating to this whole issue:
1. The Russian state, and Mr Putin in particular, has been accused by certain sections of the US intelligence community, many US politicians and much of the media of interfering in last year’s US election by targeting the emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in a cyber attack.
2. Mr Putin categorically denies that either he or the Russian state had anything to do with these incidents.
3. Since the allegations have been made, the onus, as ever, is on those making the claim to prove them, rather than the defendant to prove his innocence.
4. The burden of proof therefore lies not with Mr Putin to prove non-involvement, but on those making the allegations to prove his and the Russian state’s involvement.
5. Those making the allegations say that they have been proven, citing the apparent “fact” that “all 17 US intelligence agencies” are in agreement on the issue. They also regularly talk of “Russian hacking” or “Russian interference in our election” as if it were a fact long since established (as an aside, even the New York Times has now admitted that the “17 agencies claim”, which they cited as fact over and over, was not true).
Okay, clear so far? The allegation has been made. The allegation has been denied. Those making the allegation say it has been proven, and they talk about it as if it were an undeniable fact (indeed Mr Schumer himself did this implicitly in his Twitter outburst, when he stated that Mr Trump’s acceptance of Mr Putin’s denial “will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future”).
Back to Mr Schumer’s Tweets. Given that Mr Schumer and many others claim it to be a proven fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, what’s all this guff he spouts when he says Mr Trump should be “taking the word of our intelligence community rather than that of the Russian President” and when complaining of Mr Trump giving “equal credence to the findings of the American intelligence community and the assertion by Mr Putin”?
Sorry Chuck, but if it’s a proven fact, as you have said on countless occasions, what exactly have Mr Putin’s word or the US intelligence agencies’ word got to do with it? If the proof of Russian interference exists, like you’ve been saying it does, then Mr Trump doesn’t have to “take the word” of anyone. The intelligence agencies can simply say to him, “Don’t take our word for it Mr President, here’s the incontrovertible proof.” And they can then show it to him, he can be satisfied, and he can then show it to Mr Putin.
In any legal case where such accusations are made, it is never good enough to “take the word” of those who are making the accusations. They must either present hard evidence, or drop their claim. But in in making this into a battle between “whose word do we trust: our intelligence agencies or Mr Putin’s?”, rather than just referring to hard evidence, Chuck Schumer has just demonstrated that there are one of two possibilities:
1. The hard evidence does exist, but the intelligence agencies have not shown it to Mr Trump or Mr Schumer for that matter.
2. The hard evidence does not exist.
And since you’d have to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic to believe the first possibility, the only reasonable conclusion to come to is this: there is no hard evidence and the claims are a sham. Thanks for clearing that up, Chuck.