Time was, the phrase “false flag” was fodder for Twitter jokes and fringe conspiracy theorists. These days, the president-elect is a Twitter superuser, and the conspiracy theorists are in his inner circle.
A case in point is the raging debate over whether alleged Russian hacking was intended to influence the course of the presidential election. The CIA has decided the answer is yes, delivering that judgment to legislators and President Obama based on a what The New York Times reports is a circumstantial but sizable collection of evidence.
That conclusion has divided both left and right. Many Democrats are eager to seize on the conclusions as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s defeat last month, while some liberals—notably Glenn Greenwald—call for more skepticism of the intelligence community, in light of its past record. (An interesting case is Senator Ron Wyden, an outspoken advocate for tighter oversight of U.S. intelligence who has also defended the agency against recent attacks from Donald Trump.)
The fact that Republicans, the erstwhile party of hardline Cold Warriors, is divided over whether to believe the intelligence about Russia, and unsure how to respond, is an epochal shift, as Peter Beinart wrote this morning. Yet even since Beinart wrote that piece, there have been some signs of movement among traditional establishment Republicans. Russell Berman reports that Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate will investigate claims of Russian interference. (Republican senators including John McCain and Lindsey Graham were clamoring for investigation.) Speaker Paul Ryan issued a more tepid statement, saying that on the one hand, “We must condemn and push back forcefully against any state-sponsored cyberattacks on our democratic process,” while on the other hand warning, “We should not cast doubt on the clear and decisive outcome of this election.”