Sohn: 'Moscow Mitch' and election security

Sohn: 'Moscow Mitch' and election security

July 27th, 2019 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media in Washington earlier this month. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

What country are we living in where our Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks two election bills designed to deter election interference by Russia and other foreign countries in the same week that the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee publishes a report "with a high degree of confidence" that Russian military intelligence probed all 50 states in search of vulnerabilities ahead of our 2016 election?

McConnell's malfeasance also occurs in the same week in which former special counsel Robert Mueller testified on Wednesday that Russia is still attempting to interfere in American democracy, hoping to further its election meddling to disrupt the 2020 contest, "as we sit here."

McConnell cravenly claims the bills he blocked are "partisan legislation" by the Democratic Party.

Even "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough on Friday picked up the hashtag and moniker "Moscow Mitch" in reference to McConnell, tearing into the Kentucky Republican for several minutes.

Scarborough — no favorite of this page — recalled that in 2016 President Barack Obama sounded the alarm to American voters about Russian interference by urging congressional leaders to sign a bipartisan statement condemning it publicly.

The Washington Post reported at the time that McConnell rebuffed the suggestion, saying he viewed the idea as being designed to help Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida who since 2017 has professed to be an independent, said Friday: "We remember back then, the warnings came. But 'Moscow Mitch' ... actually blocked that and threatened the people that were trying to get that information out to warn Americans. Now we have, almost four years later, the same warnings coming, coming not only from the independent counsel ... we now have the intel committee in the Senate, run by North Carolina Republican Richard Burr, saying what? That the Russians tried to infiltrate all 50 states in 2016 to undermine American democracy, and to undermine free and fair elections. And on the same day, Moscow Mitch blocks two bills that would actually protect us from a Russian invasion in this area."

Scarborough went on about Moscow Mitch: "He is aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin's ongoing attempts to subvert American democracy. According to the Republican FBI, CIA, DNI, intel committee — all Republicans are all saying Russia is subverting American democracy and Moscow Mitch won't even let the Senate take a vote on it. That is un-American!"

It is a rant worthy of repeating — over and over.

McConnell has long opposed giving the federal government a greater hand in election oversight — an institution typically run by the states.

He argues that Congress has already done enough — passing $380 million worth of grants for states to update their election systems and supporting executive branch agencies as they make their own changes.

Meanwhile, some administration officials privately say the problem is not getting enough high-level attention because President Trump equates any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory.

That brings us back to the Senate report, which concludes, unsatisfactorily, that "the Committee does not know with confidence what Moscow's intentions were."

Among the possibilities was this: Perhaps the Russians might have intentionally left fingerprints because they wanted people to know that the systems had been breached in a ploy to undermine voter confidence in the outcome of the presidential election.

The Washington Post this week reports that an intelligence agency provided evidence to the committee that Russian diplomats, anticipating Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, had prepared to publicly question the validity of the results on election night. Pro-Kremlin bloggers were also ready to launch a Twitter campaign that was designed to get the hashtag #DemocracyRIP trending.

Gee, what would McConnell be saying in that event?

But the biggest fear at the highest levels of the intelligence world, expressed during multiple interviews that are quoted in the report, is that Russian military officers were studying the decentralized election systems in the United States to identify the weakest links in preparation for something much more malicious, and chaotic, in 2020, according to a Friday Post report.

Regardless of your political stripes, does this sound like something the leader of either of our parties should be ignoring?

We don't think so. And we're sure you don't think so, either.

Call your senators and congressmen this weekend, Monday, Tuesday, every day.

Moscow Mitch needs a reckoning.

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