While U.S. national security officials have been methodically preparing for Russian interference in the 2020 presidential election for several months, President Trump had been downplaying the potential for interference. Officials say it is more difficult to implement a comprehensive approach to preserving the electoral process with Trump lackadaisical attitude.
According to The Washington Post, officials say they have toughened defenses since 2016. But by not sending a clear message that Trump understands the gravity of the situation, officials fear that Trump is only inviting more foreign interference.
Federal prosecutors say that Russia “has long targeted the United States and U.S. allies” and they believe that the 2016 election was not the end of the interference, and was simply part of a long-term strategy that the Russians continue to implement.
Trump has often brushed off allegations against Russia’s interference, release of Democratic emails, and social media attacks which affected the election.
“It’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump announced in a 2017 meeting. Last week, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, shrugged off the importance of 2016 interference, saying Russia was only “buying some Facebook ads.”
On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that from the Mueller report, he gathered that the Russians “were very involved in the 2016 election, they’re coming at us again, and I’d like to stop them.” He continued, “and one way to stop them is to make them pay a price.” He also disputed Kushner’s evaluation, saying “I like Jared a lot, but… this is a big deal. It’s not just a few Facebook ads. They were very successful in pitting one American against the other . . . and they actually got into the campaign email system of the Democratic Party. An attack on one party is an attack on all.”
Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said in a statement: “On this issue, I want the American people to know that when we needed to brief the president or talk to the American people on the topic of election security in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, the intelligence community had the full support of the NSC and the White House,” he said. “I know, because I specifically asked the president for certain capabilities on behalf of the intelligence community and he quickly agreed and also encouraged several of us to speak to the American people. That support has not changed.”
Still, Trump repeatedly insists that Russia’s efforts in 2016 did not affect the election at all. He has refused to give explicit direction to combat Russian interference, as he believes that if he admits that there was interference, he is also admitting that he is not a legitimate president.
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