Trump’s Claims About Chinese Election Interference Mostly Air

Trump’s Claims About Chinese Election Interference Mostly Air October 9, 2018

My former colleague Spencer Ackerman has been pressing the Trump administration for evidence to back up statements by Trump and Pence about alleged Chinese election interference, which Trump says is being done to help his (non-existent) opponent. What he’s finding is mostly pure air, little more than standard propaganda engaged in by every country, including us.

and long-standing. So is mass data theft aimed at major corporations and the U.S. government itself.

But the examples cited by the administration don’t look at all like Russia’s sophisticated and multifaceted election interference in 2016. There’s no cited Chinese equivalent of the Democratic National Committee server infiltration, the exfiltration for release of scads of embarrassing documents to WikiLeaks, the creation of extensive imposter social-media accounts to inflame Americans’ political passions, the employment of a campaign architect with a long history of taking Russian money, or “dirt” promised to a campaign aide or offered ahead of a Trump Tower meeting.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters on Thursday on condition of anonymity, cited the activities of the Chinese Communist Party’s “United Front” influence agents, whose “activities have reached an unacceptable level.” But the official cited ways “China is actively interfering in our political system,” which is a different accusation than Trump’s charge at the United Nations that China is “attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, against my administration.”

Those activities include “hurting farmers and workers in states and districts that voted for the president,” the official said. “China punishes or rewards businessmen, think tanks, movie studios, journalists, religious leaders and even political candidates depending on whether they criticize or support China’s policies. China has spent billions of dollars on propaganda, here and throughout the world, crowding out or even posing as independent news sources.”

That’s it? That’s just what Ackerman calls “generic propaganda” that has been going on for decades and has little if anything to do with influencing an election. We do this kind of thing all the time. We have whole agencies who do nothing but that. So do most countries. And some of this is just laughable. I specially love the claim about “hurting farmers and workers in states and districts that voted for the president.” What that means is that, in response to Trump’s tariffs, they have targeted products made in Republican areas in order to maximize the pressure on those representatives to oppose the tariffs.

If this is “trying to interfere in our elections,” then Canada is guilty of the same thing and so is the EU. That’s just smart bargaining, using leverage to get the best deal. It’s the kind of thing Trump himself does all the time, but when someone else does it it’s suddenly a horrible thing and proof of dark conspiracies. It should be clear by now that Trump’s claim about Chinese election interference is just an evidence-free way of distracting attention away from the real interference by his buddy Putin, interference so blatant and damaging that all of our intelligence agencies got together and issued a classified report detailing the evidence for it. That evidence was presented to the Trump campaign in 2016 and they dismissed it. Because in Trumpworld, the truth is not what is supported by the evidence, it’s whatever is politically convenient for them despite the evidence.


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