The American Prospect: The Kremlin Is Back, and U.S. Elections Aren’t Ready
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson already sees signs that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2018 midterms, he told Fox News this week. Tillerson’s disclosure came on the heels of an equally bleak assessment from CIA Director Mike Pompeo last month. Asked by the BBC whether Russia would target the U.S. midterms, Pompeo replied: “Of course. I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that.”
Lawmakers have held hearings and introduced bills focused on foreign meddling, but don’t expect action before the midterms, or even by 2020. GOP leaders have taken their cue from Trump, who dismisses the entire notion of Russian meddling as a political “witch hunt.” Only one Republican, Senator John McCain, of Arizona, has signed onto a carefully drawn bill that would shed light on digital political ads, which Russians used to distribute disinformation to millions of Americans in 2016. A smattering of Republicans have joined Democrats in forwarding several other election security bills, but GOP leaders have made no move to advance them.
“Various solutions have been proposed but none has been adopted, and the clock is ticking,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, on a recent conference call to release a CLC report on foreign election interference. “Unfortunately, this matter of foreign interference has been swept into the vortex of partisan discord. And Congress’s failure to respond to the events in 2016 leaves us vulnerable this year and in 2020.”
The CLC’s report, which documents secret foreign spending on campaigns and digital ads, as well as attempted election system hacking, is one of several that spotlights regulatory and legal weaknesses that make the U.S. vulnerable to Russia and other foreign actors. A January 10 report released by Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee details a two decades-long assault on democratic institutions by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his own country, in the U.S., and across Europe, using military incursions, cyberattacks, and disinformation.