The ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee kicked off a campaign this morning to call out the president over his response to Russian election interference in 2016.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) released a report detailing 20 years of Russian interference in elections across Europe, as well as penning an op-ed in the Washington Post directly blasting President Donald Trump.
According to a Washington Post report last month, the president has yet to hold a cabinet-level meeting about the campaign Russia ran in the United States during the 2016 election. Sources close to the president said they don’t discuss it in his presences so as to not offend him.
Titled “Never before has a president ignored such a clear national security threat,” Cardin says Trump is completely ignoring his responsibility to ensure that Russia doesn’t meddle in the upcoming 2018 elections in November.
Despite the efforts of some in national security leadership, as well as dedicated career public servants across the executive branch, one person is preventing a strong, government-wide response that holds Russia accountable for its destabilizing activities: the president of the United States. Never before has the White House so clearly ignored a national security threat.
If we fail to respond with the urgency this threat requires, the regime in Moscow will be further emboldened — not just to undermine European stability but to build on its success in interfering in our 2016 presidential election by undermining the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election.
Cardin’s Russia Report includes a pattern of behavior from Moscow to try and influence the results of elections across Europe for the better part of two decades. Two specific examples cited were:
A coup attempt in Montenegro to storm the nation’s parliament and capture or kill the prime minister ahead of that nation’s attempt to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Russian media propaganda, especially Internet trolls and bots, which were discovered in the public debate ahead of recent major referendums such as “Brexit” in Britain and the Catalonia independence movement in Spain, as well as national elections in France and Germany. Indications are that Italy may well be next.
The report by Cardin was commissioned in the wake of the 2016 election after American intelligence officials concurred on an assessment that found Russia attempted to interfere in the American election. The report has nothing to do with alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which is also being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.
In his report, Cardin notes the threat is unrelated to the president’s victory but is his responsibility now.
This threat existed long before President Trump took office, and unless he takes action now, it will continue long after his administration. While President Trump stands practically idle, Mr. Putin continues to refine his asymmetric arsenal and look for future opportunities to disrupt governance and erode support for the democratic and international institutions that the United States and Europe have built over the last 70 years.
Cardin recommends six steps for the administration to mitigate the threat, including freezing Kremlin-linked dirty money and requiring social media sites to disclose funding for political ads.