Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Democrats to Trump: Your Russia silence is deafening

Democratic Senator's Report Warns of Russian Meddling Across Europe Paul Morigi Getty Images File
Kenny Thornton | 12 January, 2018, 07:39

A new report by Congressional Democrats has called out President Donald Trump for a failure to protect America from what they describe as a growing threat of Russian election meddling this year and during the 2020 presidential elections.

"Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a United States president", the Democrats' report charged. It was prepared for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Trump's broad defence of his approach towards Russia, in contrast to that of his predecessor Barack Obama, came on a day when Democrats on Capitol Hill kept up their pressure on him over what they see as soft-pedalling of the alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. The congressional and the FBI investigations into the Russian meddling have haunted Trump, thwarting Russia's hopes for better ties with the USA under his administration.

On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted: "The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues". "There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes".

GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, an outspoken Trump critic, has pressed for action on Russian Federation, pushing the administration to comply after they missed an October deadline to designate targets under the new Russian Federation sanctions legislation.

On Jan. 8, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov rejected assertions by Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo that Moscow planned to meddle in the November 2018 elections that will determine whether the Republicans retain control over both houses of Congress.

While the USA has what the report calls "a patchwork" of offices and programs working on efforts that could help counter Russia's election interference, it doesn't have the coordinated approach that the report calls for: a "fusion" center that brings different elements of government together to address the threat, much like the National Counterterrorism Center.

"Nearly 20 years ago, Vladimir Putin gained and solidified power by exploiting blackmail, fears of terrorism, and war".

The report points to Europe to provide a roadmap for the US going forward.

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Other recommendations include working more closely with US allies in Europe on a joint approach to deterring Russia and cyberthreats, pressing social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter to be more transparent in political advertising, and reducing European imports of Russian natural gas and oil.

The United Kingdom has made a point of publicly chastising the Russian government for its meddling in democracies, and it has moved to strengthen cybersecurity and electoral processes, the report notes. Russian security forces tried to spark a coup in Montenegro after a botched election influence effort, and used its control on the natural resources market to curtail Serbia's efforts to westernize.

"At their most extreme, the Russian government's security services have been used to harass and even assassinate political enemies at home and overseas; cheat at the Olympic Games; and protect and exploit cybercriminals in Russia who attack American businesses and steal the financial information of American consumers".

Putin has used such techniques because he has operated from a position of weakness, hobbled by a faltering economy, a substandard military and few followers on the world stage.

According to a Washington Post report last month, the president has yet to hold a cabinet-level meeting about the campaign Russian Federation ran in the United States during the 2016 election.

The efforts would include "new sanctions to punish states that initiate cyberattacks on elections or critical infrastructure, an global summit meeting centered on such threats, an allied commitment of mutual defense against cyberattacks, as well as forcing social media companies to disclose the sources of funding for political ads", The New York Times reported. Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

Under Corker, the committee has conducted oversight and helped expand sanctions against Russian Federation for its "continued aggression, including its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections", Micah Johnson said.

According to the report, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has welcomed Russian propaganda in his eastern-European country, as "it aligns with the themes that he promotes", such as being anti-EU, anti-US and anti-migrant.

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