Dispatch January 12, 2018

This Week in Russian Meddling

Monday: Over the weekend, we learned that H.R. McMaster acknowledged Russian meddling in the upcoming Mexican presidential election.

Tuesday: Trump’s own Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he believes Russia not only interfered in the 2016 election, but also would do so again in 2018 and 2020.

Wednesday: Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report on “Putin’s Asymmetrical Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe,” detailing the threat Russia’s hacking poses to democracies around the world.

  • Notable: “President Trump’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the threat … has hampered efforts to mobilize our government, strengthen our institutions, and work with our European allies to counter Putin’s interference in democracies abroad.”

Thursday: The Kremlin officially fired back at the SFRC report.

Friday: Russian government-aligned hackers are conducting an espionage campaign against the U.S. Senate.

BOTTOM LINE: 2018 is an election year and America’s electoral process is still clearly vulnerable. There are still concrete steps America can take to help shore up elections:

  • Replacing and upgrading voting machines with up-to-date cybersecurity protections
  • Updating and securing voter registration lists and e-poll books
  • Requiring voter-verifiable paper ballots
  • Conducting robust post-election audits that confirm the accuracy of election results
  • Improving communication between local, state, and federal agencies about potential threats
  • Overhauling campaign finance and disclosure laws to ensure Americans know who is trying to influence their votes

There is currently bipartisan legislation that would help secure our nation’s election infrastructure and should be attached to the omnibus spending package.

  • According to a recent CAP analysis, Congress can help defend state and local elections systems from future cyberattacks for a minimum of $1.25 billion over a 10-year period –  a bargain compared to other defense spending.
  • The omnibus package is the only “must-pass” vehicle for funding in the next several months and the best chance for election security legislation to be passed in a broken Congress.