Republicans Block More Election Security, Paving the Way for Russia

Former FBI director James Comey asserted during his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June 2017:

“We’re talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re [Russians] coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. So they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about and they will be back. Because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don’t like it.”

We have had four years to fortify our social media, election security, and national intelligence apparatus to prevent what Comey predicted.

We have not.

Republicans had the majority of both houses of Congress until last January.

They could have used that political advantage to prevent Russia–and any other foreign entity–from putting its thumb again on our electoral process.

It did not.

House Republicans refused to fund election security in a 2018 spending bill.

When Democrats regained the majority in the House of Representatives last year, the first legislation they passed–“For The People Act” (HR 1)–contained language to improve election security.

That is until the bill hit the Senate.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has adopted the sobriquet the “grim reaper” because of his unilateral ability to refuse to even bring legislation to the Senate floor for votes.

Earlier last year, McConnell said at a press conference:

“The Senate is the graveyard where bills that pass in the Congress, that have bipartisan support in the country, go to die.”

In October, under McConnell’s auspices, Senate Republicans again blocked three election security bills.

Here we are, four months from selecting a nominee to take on Donald Trump, and it appears Russia is, once again, Trump’s cheerleader.

U.S. intelligence officials warned members of Congress as much in a briefing last week that precipitated Trump’s accusing acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Joseph Maguire, of “disloyalty,” and firing him.

As the New York Times reported:

“Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.”

The Times added that Trump raged about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), impeachment proceedings manager, being at the briefing.

In 2017, intelligence officials issued a warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered an influence campaign in the 2016 election, and developed “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

In response, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) along with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) tried to pass a bill requiring campaigns to report foreign election assistance overtures to the FBI, and another requiring campaigns to report those overtures to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tried to pass the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act to provide the Election Assistance Commission additional funding and ban internet-connected and foreign-made voting machines.

Yet Sen. McConnell and his fellow GOP Russophiles have demonstrated they are more interested in allowing Russia carte blanche to have at us.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) blocked Democrats’ attempts by employing the Senate’s “unanimous consent” rule, whereby any one senator can request unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any other single senator’s objection can block the request.

Sen. Wyden asserted:

“America is 266 days away from the 2020 election, and Majority Leader McConnell has yet to take any concrete steps to protect our foreign elections from hacking or foreign interference.”

Sen. Blumenthal added:

“There is no doubt that [Trump] will only be emboldened in his efforts to illegally enlist foreign governments in his reelection campaign.”

NBC News obtained an Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service threat assessment warning:

“Russia’s cyber operations have been successful and, to date, have not been sanctioned enough by the West to force Russia to abandon them. The main goal is to ensure a more beneficial election result for Russia by favoring Russian-friendly candidates or those who have the most divisive influence in the West.”

Although Republicans believe Moscow’s campaign did not assist Trump specifically, they admit it intended to foment chaos among the electorate.

So why enable it to foment chaos again?

Because that’s how they win.

The Republican party has not legitimately won the White House since Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Even though 2018’s mid-term election results were historic, it does not mean the GOP has forgotten how to cheat.

From foreign trolls and botsFox NewsSinclair Broadcasting, right-wing hate radio, dog-whistle (and not-so-dog-whistle) racismmendacious Facebook ads, voter suppression, and Donald Trump’s thousands of lies, the Republican party has its machine’s gears well-oiled.

While Democrats took the House in 2018, Trump and his Senate enablers kicked their traitorous dealings into high gear.

That year, Twitter officials revealed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Russian bots re-tweeted pro-Donald Trump messages close to 500,000 times in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

50,000 automated Russian-linked accounts re-tweeted Trump 10 times more frequently than messages pertaining to Hillary Clinton.

All told, from September to November 15, 2016, bots tweeted two million election-related messages.

2018 also saw news break about evidence confirming Russian buyers using Facebook advertising as propaganda leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

In response, Facebook presented Congress 3,000 Russian-purchased ads through 470 phony pages and accounts intended to exploit America’s racial divisions.

Facebook said at least $100,000 was spent for this purpose, a mere fraction of its political advertising during the 2016 campaign.

This motivated the House Intelligence Committee to release a sample of Facebook ads the Russian government-affiliated Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg troll farm, purchased about issues like immigration, religion, and race, for and against presidential contenders Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and Donald Trump.

More than 11 million people between 2015 and 2017 viewed these ads.

Moreover, Russia used Facebook ads to help Trump win Michigan and Wisconsin.

2018 was also the year the White House eliminated from the National Security Council an integral position charged with developing policy to defend the United States against cyber warfare and cyber election hacking.

It was also the year former DNI, Dan Coats, warned that almost two decades since the September 11, 2001 attacks, “warning lights are blinking red again” for a devastating cyber assault on critical U.S. infrastructure.”

It was the year Department of Homeland Security (DHS) head of cybersecurity, Jeanette Manfra, confirmed Russia penetrated several states’ voter rolls during the 2016 election.

And it was the year then-Fla. Sen. Bill Nelson informed the Tampa Bay Times Russia infiltrated voter registration systems in his state.

In January that year, Trump refused to implement Russian sanctions Congress compelled him to sign into law.

Facebook recently changed its advertising policies to make it easier for politicians to promulgate blatant lies, now operating under the following the rules:

“[Facebook] prohibits ads that include claims debunked by third-party fact checkers or, in certain circumstances, claims debunked by organizations with particular expertise.”

Political figures are now exempt under these new rules.

It wasn’t just elections Russian operatives targeted, though.

According to the Treasury Department, hackers successfully infiltrated other critical infrastructure such as “the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.”

James Comey warned “They will be back.

They’re back.

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