Yesterday Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking member Mark Warner (don’t you think “ranking member” sounds vaguely pornographic?) gave a joint press conference. What they were ostensibly trying to do was lay out the way forward for the Senate in its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election; what they were actually doing was trying to show everyone that they were adults unlike those yahoos in the House; what they actually did was show Devin Nunes’s wisdom in keeping Adam Schiff at arm’s length:

This is how CBS reported it

Mark Warner is the guy who made this extraordinary claim, not Burr, but the media hasn’t been able to come to grips with losing the Senate in 2014 so Warner remains the chairman.

This is what Warner said:

“We know about the hacking, and selective leaks, but what really concerns me as a former tech guy is at least some reports – and we’ve got to get to the bottom of this – that there were upwards of a thousand internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect taking over a series of computers which are then called botnets, that can then generate news down to specific areas.

“It’s been reported to me, and we’ve got to find this out, whether they were able to affect specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, Trump versus Clinton, during the waning days of the election, but instead, ‘Clinton is sick’, or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’ … fake news.

“An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hi-jack the most critical democratic process, the election of a President, and in that process, decided to favour one candidate over another.”

The key states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania which Mr Warner named all fell narrowly – and unexpectedly – to Donald Trump.

This is nonsense on its face. It isn’t sufficient to direct “fake news” into an area (and, for the record, neither example given by Warner was actually false. Clinton was obviously sick with some chronic condition about which she was never forthcoming and she was taking money from basically anyone), someone has to read it and they have to react to that news by not voting for Hillary Clinton when they intended to do so. As this “fake news” was delivered by social media, the implication Warner is making is that Facebook, Google, and other social media were compromised to the extent that the Russians could target their messages down to specific ZIP codes. As for Warner’s claim to be a “former tech guy,” that is an overstatement by 1000%. Warner’s undergrad degree seems to be political science, he has a law degree, and the sum total of his “tech” experience was as a broker of mobile phone franchise licenses.

You also have to wonder how the Russians knew to target specific counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania when the Clinton campaign did not have that information.

By holding this joint press conference, Burr allowed Warner to legitimize theories that are wildly implausible on their best day and it shows that the Senate investigation will be run by Warner.