Now that President Donald Trump’s accomplices are no longer running the House’s Russia investigation, Congress is finally getting started on seriously investigating the Kremlin’s attack on the 2016 election. The biggest step so far: requesting documents and testimony from 81 people and entities associated with the Trump campaign and administration or Russian interference efforts.
It’s heartening to read The Post’s revelatio n that U.S. Cyber Command disrupted Internet access on Election Day 2018, for the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg. This is the Russian troll farm that ran an extensive online campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump. But as the cyberwarfare expert Thomas Rid noted, the Cyber Command operation was “more of a pinprick that is more annoying than deterring in the long run.” More than two years after the 2016 election, the United States still does not have a comprehensive policy to counter and deter foreign interference in our elections. Indeed, the Trump administration is gutting the task forces established to do just that. To get serious about protecting the political process, Washington needs to ensure the technical integrity of the voting system and that voters are not subjected to foreign influence operations. A two-pronged approach is needed.
Opponents of the Mueller investigation have spent the past two years doing everything in their power to prevent Americans from learning the truth about whether the president of the United States is compromised. President Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices in Congress have tried to stymie Special Counsel Robert Mueller at every step and from every angle. Despite it all, he’s still turned up damning evidence of collusion.
Just last week, Italian investigative reporters revealed that the Kremlin is providing $3 million to support the European election campaign of Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s far right party. Similarly, right before the 2018 U.S. midterms, federal prosecutors exposed a multi-million dollar Russian digital campaign to influence the election. Two critical elections, two cases of Russia seeking to influence the outcome. The sad reality of our politics is that foreign interference in the 2020 election cycle is almost guaranteed. America’s non-response to Russia’s political assault has shown Russia and other adversaries that with Donald Trump at the helm, there is no cost to messing in America’s democratic process. To make matters worse, the person in charge of protecting America actually has a vested interest in ignoring the problem. Most recently, the Trump administration gutted key government programs designed to protect elections, essentially laying out the welcome mat for Russia to intervene in 2020.
The latest predictions of an end to the Mueller investigation seem to be producing more smoke than usual: According to sources speaking to both CNN and The Washington Post, Attorney General William Barr is preparing for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to file a report on his investigation soon. As we wait to see what form that report takes, and what the public learns about the end of Mueller’s investigation, what we’ve seen already raises important unanswered questions.
Senator Richard Burr needs to re-examine what he thinks is acceptable campaign contact with hostile foreign powers. The very same day that The Washington Post extensively detailed a secret meeting between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a suspected Russian intelligence operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, Burr claimed the Senate Intelligence Committee has found “no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
The Trump campaign knew Russia was attacking the 2016 election and chose to aid and abet rather than report that effort. There is only one explanation: collusion.