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Horowitz: Mueller’s Indictment of Russian Election Meddlers is a Wake-Up Call

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

 

As President Trump’s own National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said this past weekend, “with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible.”  McMaster is, of course, referring to Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s detailed and informative indictment of 13 Russians and 3 Russian entities for a highly sophisticated and wide-ranging social media effort to influence the 2016 Presidential election with the main goals of fomenting divisions, disparaging Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump.  For any one who was still skeptical about Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, the indictment unveiled by the special counsel on Friday should put those doubts to rest.

The Muller indictment bookended a week that began with all of Trump’s appointed heads of our national intelligence agencies telling the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was still actively meddling in our politics with plans to interfere in the 2018 elections. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence.

Despite the unanimous verdict of his intelligence chiefs that Russia is still at it, President Trump  continues to refuse to provide any guidance or over-all leadership on safeguarding our elections. Pressed by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) at the same Senate Intelligence Committee on whether or not the president was providing any specific instructions on protecting the integrity of the 2018 elections from Russian interference, FBI Director Chris Wray said the bureau is undertaking “a lot of specific activities” to counter Russian meddling but was “not specifically directed by the president.”  When all the others attempted to dodge the question, it became evident that Trump is not directing any kind of effort in this regard.

Similarly, his reaction to Mueller’s Friday indictment in a series of tweets over the past weekend was to attack, mislead and attempt to change the subject.  President Trump was forced to finally admit that Russia did indeed meddle in the election, but he still did not criticize Putin or indicate in any way that it was a priority of his to protect our election process going forward.

With the mid-term elections nearing, we must launch a coordinated national response and do so with the sense of urgency that the situation requires.  With the President continuing to abdicate his responsibility on this topic, it will take bi-partisan Congressional action combined with a cooperative and well-executed strategy from our intelligence agencies, working with state election officials.  We know that the Russians probed our actual voter rolls and voting systems in the presidential election and the security of our disparate and locally run and controlled election systems must be hardened.  The big social media firms must put in place requirements for paid for by disclosures on ads and do a better job of policing bots and fraudulent posting. If they won’t do so voluntarily, new laws must be put in place.

For our democracy to function, people must be able to trust that the results of our elections are accurate and that there is no undue foreign influence. These are the high stakes here as definitively outlined in the Mueller indictment and the testimony of our intelligence chiefs. Ensuring that we safeguard our democracy going forward is far more important than how the investigation impacts President Trump’s political fortunes.   If he won’t do the job he was elected to do, everyone else will simply have to do much more.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates.. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island

 

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