Voting machines were not tampered with during the 2016 presidential election, voter rolls went untouched and there were no reported security breaches of official election offices, according to former President Barack Obama and the U.S. intelligence community.
As far as 2016-related "hacking" is concerned, private individuals connected to failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had their emails stolen and leaked in batches during the election.
The integrity of the election went unharmed, and the votes were counted fairly and accurately, the former president and intelligence officials have said on multiple occasions.
Yet there persists today in media circles an insistence on claiming hostile foreign agents "hacked the election." This shorthand is misleading, and it does nothing to get us closer to knowing the truth of Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 election.
"In new threat assessment, Trump's director of national intelligence accepts Russian hacked 2016 election – a conclusion Trump himself rejects," the Wall Street Journal's Byron Tau said on social media Thursday morning.
CNN's Tom LoBianco then tweeted the following:
Warner up now - to the panel - did Russia hack the election?Entire panel: Yes— Tom LoBianco (@tomlobianco) May 11, 2017
His CNN colleague Daniella Diaz was not far behind:
CNN's official Twitter account later followed suit:
These characterizations of Sen. Mark Warner's, D-Va., remarks are enormously misleading.
First off, the senator never used the phrase "hack the election." He said this:
Do you believe that the January 2017 intelligence community assessment accurately characterizes the extent of Russian activities in the 2016 election, and in its conclusion Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using this information in order to influence our elections?
Warner carefully parsed his question for a reason. Boiling his question down to something involving the "hack the election" shorthand does him a disservice.
It's OK to report the Russians were likely involved in taking private messages from email accounts belonging to Democratic National Committee staffers and Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
A declassified U.S. intelligence report says as much.
"We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency," the report read.
It added, "We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for [President Trump]."
The emails, which WikiLeaks published during the election, did Clinton and her team no favors, especially when it was revealed that certain DNC staffers colluded to rig the Democratic primary against Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
It's also OK to say Russia likely meddled in or interfered with in the presidential election, according to what the U.S. intelligence community has reported.
It's terribly misleading, on the other hand, to say Russia hacked the election. This shorthand leaves readers with the incorrect impression that voting numbers may have been tampered with, and it smells strongly of the suggestion that Trump's victory over Clinton is somehow illegitimate.
The "hacked" narrative has been so pervasive that Obama, the Justice Department and the FBI each have stressed since the Nov. 8 election that there is no evidence to suggest votes were interfered with in any way, either electronically or manually.
There's nothing to show the Russians "hacked" any formal function of the presidential election. There are no reports showing any manipulation of official government or election office duties or functions.
To date, all we know is that two private entities, the DNC and Podesta, had their emails stolen during the election and that the Russians were most likely behind it, according to the U.S. intelligence community.
We deserve more information on Russia's meddling in the election. We deserve answers. But media are not helping by muddying the waters with misleading language and sloppy shorthand. Get out of the way.