If you’ve been paying attention for the past two and a half years, or if you’ve been awake and conscious during that time, you’re well aware that Russian government hackers took steps to alter the vote totals in Donald Trump’s favor in key swing states in the 2016 election. The only people not willing to acknowledge this are Trump and the Republicans – yet suddenly, the leading Republicans in Florida are acknowledging it.
You don’t have to take our word for it that Russia rigged key swing states in Trump’s favor in 2016. The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee quietly released a bipartisan report in May of 2018 which acknowledged that Russian government hackers penetrated the voter registration databases of these swing states, and were in a position to delete voter registration data. This essentially exposed how Russia managed to alter the outcome: by strategically deleting the voter registrations of people who were most likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.
This crucial Senate report got very little media attention at the time, even though it’s the closest we’ve gotten to a smoking gun when it comes to Russia having rigged the election so that Donald Trump “won” instead of Hillary Clinton. Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, is on that committee, so he knows full well what really happened. Finally, a year later, he’s suddenly talking about it.
Mario Rubio admitted in an interview yesterday that Russian hackers were “in a position” to change voter roll data in Florida during the 2016 election. In fairness to Rubio, he has stated multiple times in the past that America should be worried about Russian election interference in general, citing the rationale that for all he knows, next time some other foreign country could try to meddle in the election for the other side. But it’s nonetheless eye popping that Rubio is suddenly putting a focus on the fact that Russian hackers broke in and gained the ability to alter the outcome of the 2016 election.
At first blush, one might suspect that Marco Rubio – who has long had presidential ambitions of his own – has taken a look at the inevitable impeachment of Donald Trump and is now trying to position himself as the 2020 Republican nominee for president. One efficient way to do that would be to help expose that Trump didn’t actually win in 2016. But the kicker is that Rubio isn’t the only prominent Florida Republican who suddenly cares about this issue.
While the 2016 election saw statistically suspicious results in numerous key swing states, the 2018 election was different in that these kinds of suspicious results were largely limited to Florida. In fact Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican Senator Rick Scott both won in Florida in 2018 in bizarre upsets that stood in sharp conflict with the overall voting and polling accuracy trends that played out across the rest of the nation.
Yet suddenly, DeSantis and Scott – two politicians who appear to have directly benefited in 2018 from Russia’s ongoing pro GOP election hacking efforts – are expressing earnest concern about how Russia hacked Florida. These are the last two Republicans, other than Donald Trump, who would want anyone focusing on Russian election interference. So what are they up to?
Generally speaking, you only start to show “concern” about this kind of thing if you think it’s about to get a whole lot uglier, and you’re trying to get out ahead of it. If it’s about to come to light that someone cheated on your behalf, the best thing you can do is try to act like you’re really upset that someone cheated at all. That way you can then claim that you had no idea anyone was trying to meddle in your favor. This whole thing strongly suggests that we’re about to see another shoe drop in the Russian election rigging scandal, specifically with regard to what the Russians did in Florida in 2016 an 2018. Stay tuned.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report