Stephen Cohen, a professor emeritus of Russian Studies at New York University and a contributing editor to the leftist magazine The Nation, said -- contrary to claims of The Washington Post -- "we do not" know if our democracy was "hacked" by Trump-Russia collusion, it is "not true" that a "consensus of intelligence agencies" said there was collusion and, when it comes to news coverage of the president, "I have never seen media malpractice like this before in my life."
Cohen, an author, writer, and leading expert on Russia since the Bolshevik coup d'etat in 1917, added that he travels to Moscow regularly and even knows Russian intelligence officers and he has not yet "found anybody in Moscow who believes the story" of collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials.
On the Dec. 15 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson quoted from The Washington Post, which in a story about Trump and Russia ran a headline "hacking democracy," implying that this was true, an established fact. Carlson asked Prof. Cohen if it is true that "our democracy was, quote, 'hacked,' do we know that?"
Prof. Cohen, who is also professor emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton University, said, "We do not. It's been alleged." He then explained the "media malpractice" of The Post.
"Originally it was said that 17 intelligence agencies made that finding," said Cohen. "Turned out it was a few people and a couple of intelligence agencies. If you read on in The Washington Post story in the first paragraph, they go back to this claim that it's a consensus of intelligence agencies."
"So, it's simply not true," he said. "I have to say that, in addition to being a professor for a long time, I was also a paid consultant of a major American television network."
"I admire mainstream media, I learned a lot," said Prof. Cohen. "But I have never seen media malpractice like this before in my life."
"What that constitutes is essentially making allegations for which there is no verified fact, information or evidence," he said. "And then basically your commentary on it. So, briefly put, it said that somehow Trump has been compromised by Putin, the leader of Russia. Then when Trump does diplomacy with Putin, The New York Times literally calls it treason. I've never seen anything like this before."
Prof. Cohen then noted how, in the past, the media were often skeptical of leaks from U.S. intelligence agencies because all leaks have a political agenda atatched to them. He also said that presidents should be skeptical of intelligence claims and cited the Bay of Pigs disaster, based on CIA intel; the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution under President Lyndon Johnson; and the intelligence claims about WMD in Iraq.
"A president who is skeptical about intelligence, critical mind of it, is a good president," said Cohen.
Carlson then asked, "Do we have, that you have seen, any evidence at all that the Russian government materially affected the outcome of the 2016 election?"
Prof. Cohen said, "I've heard you say repeatedly there is no evidence. I've looked harder than you have. I've looked here in America but, also, I've looked in Moscow. When I'm there, I ask people I know and yes, I confess, I do know people who are or have been Russian intelligence agents. I haven't found anybody in Moscow who believes the story."
Stephen Cohen is the author of nine books on the Soviet Union and post-Communist Russia, as well as countless essays and articles. He is a former CBS News consultant, a friend of Mikhail Gorbachev, and he advised President George H.W. Bush in the 1980s.
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