By Summer of 2016, the Central Intelligence Agency was confident that Russia was actively working to sabotage U.S. elections.
Federal officials reach out to state officials, meet resistance.
Jeh Johnson, the former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was dispatched to help aid America’s patchwork of election systems, most of which continue to be antiquated.
The Secretary floated a proposal that would have designated state voting machines as “critical infrastructure”. Such a designation would have entitled states to increased funding for cybersecurity.
The former Secretary ended up meeting resistance to these state efforts, particularly with Republican state officials. The Secretary organized a series of conference calls, many of which descended into hyper-partisan shouting matches.
Johnson was stymied from enacting these reforms.
Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.
President Obama reaches out to Republican Congressional leaders, meets more resistance.
The negative reactions by state officials led to the Obama Administration reaching out to the U.S. Congress. The President wanted to craft a bipartisan message against Russian electoral interference.
Senator Mitch McConnell blanched at this. Not only was he cynically skeptical of the intelligence linking Russia to election meddling, he opposed alerting the general public about it as well.
The White House was stunned by Republican opposition to this: Here the White House was seeking a bipartisan response to something fundamental to national interests, namely U.S. democracy, and voting, and Republican members of the U.S. Congress were in opposition to it.
“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting. Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response...
It was not until October 7th, 2016 that the Obama White House warned the American public of Russian attacks on U.S. democracy. By that time D.C. Leaks and WikiLeaks were already publishing hacked and doctored emails of Democratic candidate former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.