CNN Newsroom co-host Jim Sciutto took the opportunity on Monday to diagnose Republicans with reality-denying "psychosis" and hype his book Shadow War in the process. Sciutto was particularly incensed at Republicans for questioning Russian interference in the 2016 election, instead offering up the CrowdStrike conspiracy theory that says it was Ukraine that interfered in 2016.
Sciutto began by playing a clip of Dr. Fiona Hill's Thursday testimony where she chastised Republicans for repeating such theories. After the clip, Sciutto told viewers, "That’s right. Russian propaganda. I wrote a book about Russian election interference and other aggression the shadow war and what struck me was just how many digital fingerprints tied the hacking to Russia, in fact two Russian hacking groups well known to U.S. intelligence, as a former top NSA official told me, 'The Russians didn’t even try to hide.'"
Later in the segment, New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth joined Sciutto to agree with the day's CNN talking points. "I don't know why the Republicans keep propagating this Russian propaganda, other than it fits with this idea that Trump does not want to recognize that Russia may have helped his election victory in 2016."
It was then that Sciutto (the former Obama State Department employee) turned into a psychologist: "Republican lawmakers then appear willing to back that kind of psychosis, almost, for political reasons." CNN's Brian Stelter added his approval to Sciutto's armchair diagnosis on Twitter, "We need more of this truth-telling on TV." Perlroth followed by condemning Mitch McConnell for not doing enough in the Senate to combat election interference and was particularly worried that "we're still playing catch-up" because "we can't even agree on the basic facts that Russia did interfere."
There were so many problems with Sciutto's segment it is hard to know where to begin. First, just because CrowdStrike is a conspiracy theory and that Russia did interfere, does not also mean Ukraine didn't. In response to questions last week from Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT), Hill said that while she did not agree with Republican interpretation of Kenneth Vogel's famous Politico article that she could see why President Trump might see otherwise. "Many said some pretty disparaging and hurtful things about President Trump, and I can’t blame him for feeling aggrieved about them."
Second, it is simply not true that Republicans deny Russian interference in 2016 as all the congressional reports on the topic that came out in the aftermath of 2016 would have had to come out of Republican-controlled committees.
Finally, Hill also said that Russia's goal was, in part, to "divide us against each other" and there is no better way to do that than by calling Republicans mentally ill and disconnected from reality, while ignoring all the times Democrats have been divorced from reality, such as when many on left thought that the infamous "pee tapes" actually existed.
Here is a transcript for the November 25 show:
CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto
November 25, 2019
10:20 a.m. Eastern
JIM SCIUTTO: That’s right. Russian propaganda. I wrote a book about Russian election interference and other aggression, The Shadow War, and what struck me was just how many digital fingerprints tied the hacking to Russia, in fact two Russian hacking groups well known to U.S. intelligence. As a former top NSA official told me, “The Russians didn’t even try to hide.”
NICOLE PERLROTH: So, I don't know why the Republicans keep propagating this Russian propaganda, other than it fits with this idea that Trump does not want to recognize that Russia may have helped his election victory in 2016.
SCIUTTO: And Republican lawmakers —
PERLROTH: And by saying that —
SCIUTTO: — appear willing to back that kind of psychosis, almost, you know, for political reasons here. I want to ask you again, because you know how much Russia is up to this sort of thing and by the way, we have an election less than a year away. How does it help Russia to have American — an American president but also American lawmakers help spread and — and defend a conspiracy theory?
PERLROTH: Well, it just helps the — it — it does not address the fact that we're now heading into one of the consequential elections in the past decade and if we can't agree on the basic facts that Russia and Russian hackers interfered in the 2016 election —
PERLROTH: — then we're not going to be any better off this time than we were four years ago. And, you know, we also should point out that Mitch McConnell refuses to bring any election security bill to the Senate floor and through our reporting, and I'm sure you've heard the same, a lot of it is because of the fact that any kind of election security bill is seen by this administration —
PERLROTH: — as yet another reminder that Russia did intervene in the 2016 election
PERLROTH: — and what's horrible is that from all the reporting, we also know that it's very unlikely that Russia is going to run the same play book that they ran in the last election, and we're still playing catch-up —
PERLROTH: — to 2016, where we can't even agree on the basic facts that Russia did interfere.