Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley claimed during an appearance on Fox News on Saturday that Democratic politicians and the mainstream press have done more to interfere in the electoral system than Russia has.
Responding to a question about the indictment handed down by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday — which accused 13 Russians and three Russian companies of a coordinated social media campaign to bolster Donald Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election — Gidley brushed aside the allegations against Russia, and quickly pivoted to other scapegoats.
“What the Russians were trying to do, as outlined by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, was create chaos in the American election system,” Gidley said.
“And I will just say this: There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians, and that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media, who continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year — and quite frankly Americans should be outraged by that.”
Fox News’ Rachel Campos-Duffy was quick to endorse Gidley’s spin and downplay the significance of Friday’s indictment. “The good news is, Hogan, if you poll the American people they were never buying the Russian collusion story anyway,” Campos-Duffy said. Gidley agreed.
Mueller’s 37-page indictment provides detailed evidence of massive Russian social media interference before and after the 2016 election. Russian operatives effectively disseminated pro-Trump and anti-Clinton propaganda through online platforms, often by impersonating Americans.
While Friday’s indictment did not confirm any instances of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives, the investigation into possible collusion remains ongoing — and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has not ruled out the possibility of future allegations in this area.
Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, acknowledged Saturday that, with the addition of Mueller’s latest indictment, the mounting evidence of Russian election interference is now irrefutable.
Nonetheless, with the help of Fox News, Republicans have wasted no time finding ways to downplay the latest indictment from the special counsel — arguing that the president has been completely exonerated from allegations of collusion, that Russian operatives were actually organizing against Trump and for Bernie Sanders, and that Russian collusion was all President Obama’s fault.
Defenses of Russia from the Trump White House have bigger implications on the international stage. Because top Trump administration officials — including the president himself — have repeatedly denied that Russia had any influence over the 2016 election, it’s given Russian leaders cover to argue the same thing.
At a conference in Munich on Saturday, for instance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov downplayed the accusations in Friday’s indictment as “just blabber” and cited the Trump officials who have said the latest presidential election results weren’t influenced by any outside force.
UPDATE: Gidley’s comments are playing well with Russian propaganda network RT, which summarized his argument as “Democrats and [mainstream meda] wreaked far more havoc than Russians.”
— RT (@RT_com) February 17, 2018