The intelligence community put out a dire warning in testimony before Congress Tuesday: Russia remains determined to undermine American democracy as we head into the 2018 midterm elections.
The heads of the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency, as well as the director of national intelligence, were all in agreement about how important it is to address this threat. The only person who doesn’t seem to be on the same page is President Donald Trump.
NSA director Mike Rogers said Trump has “directed [him[ to blunt or actually stop” Russian interference in the election. The other chiefs echoed this comment, though CIA director Mike Pompeo — a close ally of the president — said it is taking steps to block Russian efforts. However, he did not say Trump had directed these efforts.
In fact, Trump has shown little interest in defending against the Russian threat. He has repeatedly expressed doubts about the Russian attempt to influence the 2016 election, in opposition the uniform opinion of the intel community.
And after the Congress took real action against Russia by slapping it with major sanctions in response to the interference, Trump completely undermined their work by declining to enforce the sanctions. He’s virtually giving the Kremlin the green light to interfere in U.S. elections.
At least he’s not explicitly calling for them to do so, as he did in 2016.
There are steps Congress could take to insist that Trump address the threat if it chose to. It could threaten to step up investigations into his administration if he doesn’t enforce the sanctions. It could refuse to pass his preferred legislation or appoint his nominees if he doesn’t act.
The American people could pressure Congress on this front. And if they don’t think it’s important yet, maybe they would heed the word of the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
“We need to inform the American public that this is real,” Coats said Tuesday. “We are not going to allow some Russian to tell us how we’re going to vote.”
He concluded: “There needs to be a national cry for that.”