Last summer, Donald Trump insisted – in a written statement and in a tweet – that the foreign attacks on the 2016 election had “no effect on the outcome of the election.” That is not, however, what U.S. intelligence agencies said.
A few months later, Trump’s CIA director, former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, said during a public event, “[T]he intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.” That wasn’t true and Pompeo soon after had to walk back his claim.
If we’re being charitable, we’ll assume Vice President Mike Pence somehow missed these stories.
Vice President Mike Pence said it is the “accepted view” that despite efforts, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was not impacted by foreign meddling.
“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election,” Pence said at an event in downtown Washington on Wednesday.
That is most certainly not the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities.
The facts aren’t especially complicated. The intelligence community’s assessment on Russia’s attack has been publicly available for months, and it specifically said, “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”
And that leaves us with two areas of interest. First, if we’re still being charitable and working from the assumption that the vice president isn’t deliberately lying to the public about an unresolved scandal of historic significance, Pence either didn’t read the intelligence agencies’ assessment or he forgot its conclusions when he addressed the subject today.
Either way, Pompeo walked back his bogus claim when he made this mistake, and there’s nothing stopping Pence from doing the same thing.
Second, this morning’s comments weren’t the first time the vice president has been caught peddling falsehoods related to the Russia scandal. In those other instances, Pence’s defense was that his missteps weren’t his fault – he’d been misled by others, so his deceptions were the result of ignorance and not his fault.
That excuse clearly won’t work today.