Sean Spicer speaks to reporters in the spin room after the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. on Feb. 6, 2016.
Photo by Meredith Dake-O'Connor/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Blaming Clinton for Russia’s pro-Trump intervention is bonkers

The RNC’s Sean Spicer, a spokesperson for Donald Trump’s transition team, rolled out an amazing new defense for Russia’s alleged intervention in the American presidential election on behalf of the Republican ticket. Here’s Spicer’s pitch from Friday:
“I think the problem I have with this story and the narrative that’s out there about Russia is a few things. Number one, this wouldn’t have happened if Hillary Clinton didn’t have a secret server.

“It wouldn’t – I mean, she didn’t follow protocols.”
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, visibly gobsmacked, told viewers the other day, “Just to reiterate and make painfully clear, Russia’s alleged cyber espionage into the DNC and John Podesta has nothing to do whatsoever, at all, in any way shape or form, definitively, at all, absolutely with Clinton’s email server – at all.”

Just so we’re clear, Chris was right and Spicer was wrong. The question I had, however, is why the Republican, rumored to be a leading contender to be the next White House press secretary, made a claim that was spectacularly ridiculous in the first place.

The obvious explanation, I suppose, is that Spicer was trying to pull a fast one, making a brazenly false argument in the hopes of shifting responsibility for this mess away from Trump and his boosters in Moscow, and towards Hillary Clinton.

But my hunch is, Spicer was sincere: he wasn’t lying; he was just ignorant. It’s emblematic of a broader problem that’s lingered for months: many Republicans – like many reporters and many voters – simply have no meaningful understanding of the basic details surrounding the Clinton “controversy.”

The public was told there was a “scandal,” it related to emails, the FBI took an interest, but as far as the political world was concerned, the details were murky, boring, and not worth caring about. All that mattered was the consensus: “Clinton, something, something, emails, something, something, scandal, something, something, lock her up.”

In reality, however, the DNC’s email system was not hosted on Clinton’s server. That doesn’t even make sense. John Podesta’s email account was through Google – and in case this isn’t already obvious, Hillary Clinton does not have access to, or ownership of, Google’s servers.

Hillary Clinton’s email server protocols, what we’ve been told was the single most important issue of 2016, had literally nothing to do with Russia’s alleged operation to help put Trump in the White House. To believe otherwise is to be confused about the underlying story at the most rudimentary level.