ROCKVILLE — As the 2018 primary election approaches, foreign election interference could be at play, Congressman Jamie Raskin warned.
“It’s been nearly two years since Russia’s sweeping and unprecedented assault on the country’s elections in 2016,” Raskin said to an audience of about 70 people at Richard Montgomery High School on Tuesday evening. “Although there’s no evidence that vote counts were altered … actors were able to gain access to and could have deleted voter registration records or altered poll books.”
Raskin (MD-8), who was joined by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Election Assistance Commission Chairman Tom Hicks, Center for American Progress Voting Rights Manager Danielle Root, and Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program Liz Howard, warned that, much as in 2016, the 2018 midterm elections could be targeted by foreign adversaries such as Russia.
Hoyer explained that the issues have previously plagued elections in the United States, including in 2000, when butterfly ballots resulted in the "hanging chads," causing confusion about votes cast in Florida. He added that election machine manufacturers need to be held to “high standard of security.”
“I think we’re moving in a very positive direction resulting from a negative event,” Hoyer added.
I have covered several Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill for the Montgomery County Sentinel. That is what I do. However the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on social media influence in the 2016 U.S. election held on November 1st was like no other.
The usual Congressional hearings I have attended are like the hearing during which former CIA Director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Russian influence in our 2016 presidential election. During that hearing it was difficult to tell if the Republican members and the Democrat members were there for the same purpose. While the Democrat questions dealt with Russian interaction with the Trump campaign, the Republican questions dealt primarily with Hillary Clinton's emails.
No such variation in questioning during the social media hearing on November 1st. During this hearing, to my surprise, both Republicans and Democrats were for the most part on the same page. Quite simply, their questions focused on the extent of the Russian use of social media to attempt to influence the outcome of the election, what is being done to prevent any recurrence of that improper use of social media AND why was nothing done earlier!
I will readily admit that I was never under the impression that Donald Trump personally coordinated with Russian counterparts to influence the 2016 presidential election and hand him the White House. However, I am convinced of the following three key points: (1) it is likely that certain members of the Trump campaign did, indeed, do just that, (2) Trump does have definite financial ties to Russian entities that go back decades and are problematic for various reasons, and (3) to prevent both items one and two above from being exposed for all to see, Trump did attempt to impede and obstruct the investigations underway to determine the levels of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Further, by doing so he continually obstructs a critical step in preventing the recurrence of this influence in future elections.