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We should take the Russian hacking issue seriously

A few years back, when Ebola patients were flown to Atlanta, a series of twitter accounts began tweeting claims that Ebola had reportedly made it out of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Concurrently, a series of twitter accounts were reporting about Department of Homeland Security coverups.

As one of the evening news host on the radio in Atlanta, many of these tweets were directed toward me. They all looked to be from normal people who had normal lives with normal pictures of family. But curiously, though the accounts had been created years before the Ebola “outbreak,” all of the accounts were dormant till the CDC treated the doctor with Ebola in Atlanta.

Sometime around July of 2015, those twitter accounts that remained were suddenly Donald Trump supporters. Through late 2015 and into early 2016, many of the accounts became Trump supporting members of the white nationalist “alt-right” movement. Between the Ebola outbreak and the Trump campaign starting, The New York Times ran a story on these social media accounts.

The accounts were all Russian. They were a propaganda effort to sow discord and fear in various western democracies. Eastern European countries, Sweden, the Brexit effort, the Scottish independence effort, etc., all saw a similar phenomenon. Vladimir Putin has strategically embraced nationalist movements on the theory that it would force other countries to turn inward and be distracted while he re-establishes a Russian sphere of influence in the East.

There is no question that the Russians got their hands dirty in the 2016 American presidential election. We know Wiki-leaks serves as a propaganda outfit for the Russians. We know the Russians did hack the Democratic National Committee and most likely the Republican National Committee. We know Wiki-leaks ran with the emails obtained from the hacking. We know John Podesta’s emails were obtained when he was tricked into surrendering his email password.

None of that information is disputed. But there is no evidence that the Russians actually hacked into voting booths and made sure votes cast for Hillary Clinton went to Donald Trump. In fact, if they did that, they did a really terrible job considering Clinton won the popular vote.

We also know Clinton failed to campaign aggressively in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Her campaign message failed to resonate. Democrats who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 were surveyed by pollsters. The common theme among these mostly, but not all, white Democrats is that they thought Clinton was more interested in putting men in their daughters’ bathrooms than in putting them back to work.

Democrats doubling down on claims of racism after the election have not helped their case. Many of the swing counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin were solidly for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but then went for Trump. Trump improved the Republican vote in black and Hispanic communities over what Mitt Romney got four years ago.

Then there is the James Comey letter. Democrats, immediately after the election, blamed Clinton’s loss on Comey and the FBI. The president, both before and after the election, mocked those who claimed the election was rigged or stolen. But now, just before the Electoral College is set to vote, Democrats have decided the Russians actually stole the election.

They have no proof. The FBI and Director of National Intelligence do not back up the CIA’s claims. We will know the CIA is serious if they continue to pursue this after the Electoral College meets on Monday. Right now, however, this appears to be as much a propaganda campaign as what the Russians really did do.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.