Russia Is Back: Congress must defy Trump and stop foreign election tamperingMarc Morial, Esq. / March 6, 2020
Since at least 2014, known and unknown individuals, operating as part of a broader Russian effort known as ‘Project Lakhta,’ have engaged in political and electoral interference operations targeting populations within the Russian Federation and in various other countries, including, but not limited to, the United States, members of the European Union, and Ukraine. Since at least May 2014, Project Lakhta’s stated goal in the United States was to spread distrust towards candidates for political office and the political system in general.”
– U.S. Criminal Complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, accused chief accountant of “Project Lakhta,” a Russian effort targeting foreign audiences in the United States, members of the European Union, and Ukraine, among others.
For at least half a dozen years, possibly longer, the corrupt leaders of Russia have been engaged in a massive campaign to disrupt the United States of America’s political and social stability. Their goal is to weaken the institutions that have served as a bulwark against Russian aggression, such as the European Union and NATO. Federal prosecutors have charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian business entities with Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, and other crimes.
Last week, intelligence officials briefed Congress that the interference continues, and has expanded to include the Democratic presidential primary.
It is difficult to say which is more harmful to the nation: the ongoing Russian cyber warfare, or President Trump’s appalling response.
Terrified that Russia’s efforts on his behalf delegitimizes his election – and may do so again – President Trump and his allies in Congress not only refuse to take action to secure our elections, but have denigrated the findings of the intelligence community as a hoax. President Trump has gone so far as to remove the acting Director of National Intelligence whose staff provided the briefing, following a chilling pattern of retribution against government employees for carrying out their duties.
One of the ways, but certainly not the sole way, corrupt Russians believed they could advance their agenda was to promote the election of Donald Trump. Whether by design or by coincidence, Trump has served Russia’s interests in a number of ways: Days after inauguration, his administration began working to lift sanctions against Russia, and explored withdrawing military forces from Eastern Europe. He’s refused to condemn Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He’s pushed to re-admit Russia to the G-7. He’s continually attacked NATO, threatening to pull out of the treaty, and berated the leaders of NATO ally nations.
All of this has weakened other nations’ trust in the United States, and our ability to conduct responsible foreign policy.
As difficult as it is to believe, we are at a point in history where the president’s bruised ego has taken precedence over our national security. And instead of fulfilling its constitutional duty to exercise oversight of the president, Congress is enabling his dangerous behaviors.
Earlier this month, the Senate blocked three election-security bills, including one that would require campaigns to report offers of foreign election assistance to the FBI, and another that would require campaigns to report such offers to the Federal Election Commission. The Senate also has blocked the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (SAFE Act), which would provide additional funding to the Election Assistance Commission and would ban voting machines from being connected to the internet as well as machines that were manufactured in foreign countries. Also rejected have been the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, which requires offers of foreign assistance to be reported to the FBI, and the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER Act), imposing sanctions on Russia if U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia interfered in a federal election.
Congress can no longer afford to continue compromising the national security of the United States simply to demonstrate partisan loyalty. The U.S. Senate must act at once to protect democracy and stand up against foreign tampering in our elections.
Marc H. Morial is the president of the National Urban League.