The escalating crisis over the potential hacking of the US election by the Russian government is being made all the worse by America's fractured media system and its extremely divided political culture.
Despite the competing narratives from both sides of the aisle, right now, we do not know for certain whether the Russian government intervened in the US election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. While it would be easy to jump to conclusions and blame Putin for the rise of Trump, we must stick with what we know. And right now, it appears that while we are dealing with the strong possibility that individuals connected to the Russian government provided WikiLeaks with the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, we do not know for sure.
The specifics of the CIA briefing is extremely important here, and as it stands there is no evidence (yet) of Kremlin officials directing the identified hackers. As the original Washington Post report states:
Intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.
Of course this does not mean that the Kremlin didn't order the hacks, but there needs to be a bipartisan, full scale investigation to confirm the CIA's assessment. This is clearly the view President Obama is taking, hence his extreme caution over releasing the information.
As we have seen with the FBI, gigantic intelligence organizations are not singleminded -- there is often huge disagreement within them and the "official" consensus doesn't always mean much (the CIA after all called the evidence of Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction a "slam dunk" case, despite a lot of doubt within the agency). The CIA's assessment may well turn out to be completely correct, but Democrats would be ill advised to politicize this until there is concrete evidence that can be taken to the public. Without the specifics Donald Trump can continue ridiculing the accusations and use it to confirm his supporters beliefs that there is a conspiracy to keep him out of office.
Thankfully, it seems the CIA assessment has riled enough Republicans to get them to work with the President on this, and Obama has ordered an official report to be given to him before Trump's inauguration in January.
Trump's complete unwillingness to listen to the CIA is of course deeply troubling, but then it is hardly surprising given the consequences of accepting their assessment. The only way to combat this is to wait calmly for bipartisan action and concrete evidence from the intelligence community, otherwise Trump gets to turn it to his advantage and walk unchallenged into the White House. And by then, he'll know that he is almost completely untouchable.