The Times’ coverage stresses that the Russian government has disliked Hillary Clinton at least since the early 2000s when, as a senator from New York, she encouraged anti-Russian activities in Ukraine and elsewhere. In 2011, Vladimir Putin publicly accused Clinton, then Secretary of State, of instigating anti-Putin demonstrations after he won re-election. By the same token, says the Times, Donald Trump is considered to be chummy and accommodating to Putin. That’s all plausible-sounding enough, even if it does leave various loose ends (such as the Obama administration’s much-touted attempted “reboot” with Russia and uranium deals involving the Clinton Foundation) unexplained. Is it likely that Russia and Putin took an interest in the U.S. election and that they preferred one candidate over another? Certainly. And it’s equally likely that Russia would prefer Trump, who has signaled clearly that he is less interested in hemming in Russia’s influence in former Soviet republics and Europe.
At the same time, the stories also function to delegitimate Donald Trump’s win in the presidential race, which was narrow to begin with (contrary to the Trump campaign’s insistence that he won in a “landslide,” it just ain’t so). Forget that neither story actually presents even anonymously sourced information that shows Russian (or even Wikileaks) activity tipped the election. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver argues that if anything tipped things to Trump, it was FBI Director James Comey’s decision to reopen his investigation into Clinton’s email scandal