“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we will mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies we will no longer recognize the truth at all.”

These are the opening lines of the HBO series “Chernobyl,” which tells the story of how the primacy of political doctrine over truth in the Soviet system created the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe. But we don’t have to look so far back in history to see the danger of living in a world where there’s a murky mix of truth and lies.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King both serve, issued the second report on its investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election. The 85 mostly unredacted pages provide the most thorough description to date of the Kremlin-directed “information warfare” waged to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign and support Donald Trump’s.

The committee found that the election interference  was part of a “broader, sophisticated and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society.” It is an effort that began as early as 2014 and did not end on Election Day 2016, but continues today.

This report did not get much news coverage because of the steady flow of scandal emerging from the Trump White House. The president is the subject of an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, investigating whether he used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 presidential election on his behalf. New revelations of the president’s actions, along with those of Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, make the Russia story seem like old news. But it would be a mistake to ignore the Intelligence Committee’s report, especially in this highly charged environment.

The report should once and for all put an end to one of the most oft-told lies spit out by the president and his loyal supporters. The “Russia thing” was not a hoax, and investigations into it were not a “witch hunt.” After more than two years of digging, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee confirms what the intelligence community and the Office of Special Counsel, led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, already reported. They all agree that the highest levels of the Russian government targeted our democracy, and dispatched a branch of the Russian military to carry it out. Saying otherwise now is engaging in a coverup.

The committee’s work should also protect against a future wave of lies. Trump and his supporters in Congress have claimed that the “real” foreign interference in the 2016 election came not from Russia, but from Ukraine, and not on behalf of Trump’s campaign, but Clinton’s.

Attorney General William Barr is said to be “investigating the investigators,” and Trump has hinted that a future report by him will prove that foreign powers and corrupt American intelligence officials conspired to fake Russian interference to make Trump look bad.

But the weight of the Senate report along with all the others should extinguish that story before it takes hold. We know the truth. Russia really did attack us.

And they attacked us with lies. They flooded social media platforms like Facebook with false stories, targeting already-suspicious people with information designed to increase their paranoia. Some believed the lies, and many wondered if they could believe anything at all.

We can’t afford to be like the Soviet officials in “Chernobyl” and politicize every fact. As the House moves deeper into its impeachment process, Americans should look to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee as a guide.

There is no Republican truth or Democratic truth. There is only the truth, and it’s our best defense in a war of lies.

 

 

 

 

 


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