It was a pretty big story in March when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee rejected the findings of U.S. intelligence professionals and concluded that Russia did not favor Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
It was an even bigger story last week when the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee effectively said those House GOP members didn't know what they were talking about. In a joint statement, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) explained, "Our staff concluded that the [intelligence community's] conclusions were accurate and on point."
Warner added, "The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton."
Somehow, however, the head of the Department of Homeland Security remains in the dark. Politico reported today:
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday that she was unfamiliar with one of the intelligence community's key conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election -- that the Kremlin ultimately meddled to help Donald Trump get elected."I do not believe that I've seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win," she told reporters on Capitol Hill, following a briefing with lawmakers about election security efforts. "I'm not aware of that."
Politico's piece added that Moscow's preference for Trump "was at the heart of an assessment by the FBI, CIA and NSA delivered in January 2017."
Or put another way, the facts have been obvious and readily available for over a year. It's not like Nielsen hasn't had time to get up to speed on a basic detail that's been widely reported.
A Daily Beast report added, "After Nielsen made those remarks, a spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, Mark Warner, sent out findings from two reports and the special counsel's indictment in an email titled, 'I honestly can't believe I have to keep doing this.'"
So why, exactly, can't the DHS chief acknowledge what we already know to be true? I have a hunch her boss has a lot to do with it.
Let's not forget that the president has invested considerable energy in trying to convince people not to believe their lying eyes -- or U.S. intelligence agencies -- because in Trump's mind, Russia actually wanted Clinton to win, notwithstanding the Russian efforts to make sure she lost.
The more Nielsen acknowledges reality, the more she'll be at odds with the president, which is probably not where the DHS chief wants to be right now. After all, it was just two weeks ago that Trump spent a half-hour berating Nielsen in front of the entire cabinet, apparently blaming her for the lack of progress on his immigration agenda, and reportedly prompting her to consider resigning.
On the heels of that humiliation, is it any wonder she'd prefer to play dumb rather than risk the ire of an erratic and easily enraged president?