For the first time during his presidency, Donald Trump chaired an election security meeting Friday in which senior-level national security experts discussed ways to protect America’s electoral process from foreign interference.
The Washington Post reports, however, that the meeting lasted less than an hour and no new directives on how to counter or deter threats against election meddling were discussed. Officials only discussed actions taken so far to repel attacks against the US election system.
House Democrats criticized Trump for not taking on the issue sooner.
“This meeting should have happened months ago and the President deserves no special credit for doing what he is charged to do . . . by his oath of office,” said Reps. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Robert A. Brady (Pa.), Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the ranking Democrats on, respectively, the Homeland Security, House Administration, Oversight and Government Reform, and Judiciary committees.
Trump continues to be highly criticized for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where he appeared to dismiss US intelligence agencies’ assessments that the Kremlin coordinated efforts to meddle in the 2016 Presidential Election.
According to The Post:
In the absence of direct guidance from the White House, individual federal agencies have marshaled efforts to detect and counter the threat. The head of the National Security Agency created a Russia “small group” composed of NSA and military cyber-specialists tasked with detecting and countering Russian efforts to target the elections. If directed, U.S. Cyber Command, using NSA intelligence, can carry out offensive operations to disrupt such activity.
Already, at least three congressional candidates have been targeted by Russian military hackers. None of the attempts was successful, according to an executive with Microsoft, who discussed the operation at a security conference last week. One of the targets was Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who faces a tough reelection bid.
The DHS has carried out “very constructive” work with state and local election officials, said David Becker, a former Justice Department official who now heads the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research. “They’re doing everything they can to give state and local election officials the tools to combat that threat.”
But, he said, that’s not enough.
“It’s difficult for them to see our president standing next to the man who ordered that attack [against U.S. democracy] and not hold the Russians accountable,” he said. “Yes, they need to detect and prevent attacks and mitigate any negative impacts, but it’s also important to deter attacks in the first place. That’s where we’re missing leadership from the White House.”
Suzanne Spaulding, a former senior Homeland Security official, said, “It’s great that they’re having an NSC meeting today, but it’s like the pop-up summits with Putin and [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un, without all the prep work being done to prepare options and tee up issues for more senior consideration.”
Basically, US intelligence agencies have agreed that the Kremlin interfered with the 2016 Election and Trump still isn’t doing enough to ensure that the US is prepared to repel repeated attempts.