Well before the White House or U.S. intelligence agencies publicly blamed the Russian government for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, two members of Congress did. Back in September, Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement accusing Russian intelligence agencies of hacking Democratic Party institutions. “Americans will not stand for any foreign government trying to influence our election,” they declared. “We hope all Americans will stand together and reject the Russian effort.”
Ultimately, however, many Americans did just the opposite: They stood still and they stood apart. Over 40 percent of Americans now say they’re not especially bothered by reports of hackers working with the Russian government to influence the U.S. election; most Democrats say they’re bothered by the interference, while most Republicans say they aren’t. President Obama waited until after the election to personally detail Russia’s involvement in the hacks and leaks; President-elect Trump hasn’t even acknowledged that involvement.
When I visited Schiff late last week in his Capitol Hill office, the form of Barack Obama’s promised retaliation against Russia and the nature of Congress’s investigation into the Russian cyber campaign were still glaring unknowns. But the story dominating the news was Donald Trump’s reaction to a terrorist attack in Berlin. Not long after a foreign government’s attempt to alter American politics, America had seemingly moved on to other matters.