Trump Admin Gives Green Light To Future Election Interference
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report outlined Russia’s “sweeping” and “systematic” attack on American democracy. On the order of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia waged espionage and propaganda campaigns against the US in an effort to influence the 2016 election. Hackers stole Democratic emails and strategically leaked them through Wikileaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and help Donald Trump. The Internet Research Agency (IRA) targeted millions of American voters with propaganda on social media. Hackers also targeted voter systems around the country, although there is no evidence any votes were altered. The report outlined how the Trump Campaign solicited and accepted help from the Russian government.
Russia’s tactics are ongoing. Russia targeted the 2018 midterms but in a less robust fashion and intelligence officials have predicted that Russia will attack again ahead of the 2020 elections. Having seen the success and lack of consequences for Russia, there is the added possibility that countries like Saudi Arabia and China will also interfere. Unfortunately, President Trump’s fragile ego and apparent openness to receiving foreign assistance are leaving America’s election process ripe for attacks.
On page 215 of the redacted Mueller report, the Special Counsel’s team writes:
After the election, the President expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election.
Today, The New York Times expanded on this with new reporting:
Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.
But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”
One senior official told the Times that Homeland Security’s efforts to craft a coordinated strategy to combat foreign influence campaigns was stymied by the White House’s refusal to discuss it.
This reporting comes after White House Adviser Jared Kushner made troubling comments at the TIME 100 Summit downplaying Russia’s interference.
WATCH: Jared Kushner shares his view that investigations of Russian election influence in the past 2 years have had much harsher impact on democracy “than a couple Facebook ads” from the Russians. https://t.co/13F2pHK2pD pic.twitter.com/wFAcBuzVIm
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 23, 2019
Kushner’s comments came days after Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said that there’s “nothing wrong” with accepting information from Russians. The multiple foreign entanglements that plague President Trump, Jared Kushner, and other White House officials make these remarks even worse.
This isn’t just about Trump’s ego feeling insulted about questions over his “legitimacy.” The Trump administration’s inaction is leaving America’s democracy vulnerable to future election interference and their words are sending a clear message to hostile foreign actors: attack here.
On July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, President Trump made it clear he was not going to hold Russia accountable. After two years of questioning the Intelligence Community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, President Trump made his denialism official when he stood next to Putin and said:
“[Putin] just said it’s not Russia…I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
President Trump at the news conference with Putin on Russian interference in the US election: President Putin said it’s not Russia, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” https://t.co/nPWxwvrWp4 pic.twitter.com/7qGzsS18vY
— CNN (@CNN) July 16, 2018
Now we know why.
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