While there is a long history of countries (including ours) finding ways to mess with their opponent’s political system, this is sui generis, and leads to a thousand thoughts on where this takes us and leaves us.
The Threat of Illegitimacy and a Response
This is, actually,most parallel to the Kennedy assassination, in which fears of external influence were deeply believed, and deeply destabilizing. President Johnson prevailed upon Chief Justice Earl Warren to take leadership of the Commission he established because he believed that Warren’s institutional and personal credibility would resolve doubts. While the effort was far from fully successful, at least it was sufficiently so as to maintain the stability o our political system.
We need an equivalent non-partisan, completely credible, and fully supported process. If Chief Justice Roberts can not be trusted, then we need a new Chief Justice, although I suspect that he is sufficiently an institutionalist that he can be trusted. Given the increasing fear developing in the “traditional” GOP about this whole issue, it may well be that they would go all in. Trump of course, could not b part of it, nor his minions, rather however it is set up, it must be done so all the agencies cooperate, without intervention from the White House. I suspect that this has to be set up and in place before the inauguration. I suspect that this first Commission would focus only on getting the facts out.
Assuming that Election Impact is Found, There are Ways to Shape US-Internal Consequences
What the consequences for our government leadership are to be has to be depends on the facts. The problem will be getting in place a system capable of responding to the findings of the Commission. Assuming that the finding is that there was an effort to get Trump in, and that we can not be sure if this is a cause-in-fact of the result, we are in a terrible place, although one compromise might then be that the party result remains the same, but a new Republican has to be chosen, untainted by any whiff of involvement, encouragement, or lack of concern. The problem in terms of getting rid of him may be that Trump will not have committed an impeachable offense.
If, on the other hand, the result is found to be caused by the intervention — not impossible given current statistical tools — then may we need an urgent constitutional one time re-write to permit a new election. That would need a broad national consensus, but if all the prior presidents joined in support, maybe it it could happen. (And, since we know that Reagan is immortal, his ghost could chime in.)
Of course, it is also not impossible that an “innocent” President Trump would none the less commit an impeachable offense in the attempt to cover up the illegitimacy of his presidency. It is also possible, as discussed here, that the “unable” language of the 25th Amendment would apply, particularly if Trump’s tendency to be out of touch with reality were exacerbated by the investigation and deterioration of this political situation.
Really Weird Things Could be Found
Supposing, for example, that it turned out that the emails found on Weiner’s computer that led to the FBI intervention in the election had been placed there by the Russians. Or that hacking had created conflicts between Republican Presidential candidates that had not been there before. (To think of more ideas, just speculate about what Nixon’s gang would have done if they had had high level hacking capacity.)
The Long Term Threat Goes Far Beyond Elections
Anyone in the leadership elite should be terrified by this. Think what it threatens to corporations, banks, universities, the media, etc. They are subject to just the same kind of disruption and potential blackmail as the political players at issue. They are already deeply fearful of Trump, and this might give them a bit more spine.
The US is Ultimately Less Vulnerable Than Authoritarian Countries
While the interrelated epidemic of false news has made it harder to know what to believe, countries are far more vulnerable to this kindof thing when people basically don’t believe anything they get from media — which is what happened when you have centrally controlled media. While their elections are not so much subject to disruption than ours, simply because they do not have them in any real sense, the economy, the inner network of real decision makers, the academic and media worlds, are totally subject to interference. Those countries are not controlled not by a publicly derived and legitimated consensus, but by complex signals in a highly uncertain world, which if properly penetrated, can be caused to collapse.
Protecting Ourselves in the Future
Largely ignored is the simple truth that the best defense again hacking is transparency.
P.S. I would particularly urge you to share this with your networks, particularly anyone you know in media.