They Did It Before; They’ll Do It Again

They Did It Before; They'll Do It Again

We may be missing the forest for the trees in the Russian election hacking story: The Kremlin’s attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is part of a much bigger tale of Russian covert action.

Russia's Attack on US Elections Is Part of an International Pattern

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius is perhaps the city’s best-connected national security reporter. He broke the story that brought down former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, confirming – through NINE sources – Flynn’s potentially illegal pre-inauguration signals to the Russian ambassador, and he’s been all over reports of Russian hacking into the 2016 election.

So today’s Ignatius column on Russian cyber-attacks is definitely worth a read. Ignatius argues that “We may be missing the forest for the trees in the Russia story: The Kremlin’s attempt to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is part of a much bigger tale of Russian covert action — in which Donald Trump’s campaign was perhaps a tool, witting or unwitting. This secret manipulation, if unchecked, could pose an ‘existential threat’ to Western democracy, argues Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to Washington.

“The investigations begun by the FBI and Congress hopefully will reveal or debunk any connections between the Trump team and Russia’s hidden manipulators,” Ignatius adds. “A larger benefit is that these inquiries will bolster transatlantic efforts to reclaim the political space the Kremlin is trying to infiltrate. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last weekend in Munich that the world is entering the “post-West” era. Unless the United States stands solidly with its allies, Lavrov’s claim may prove accurate.”

You can read Ignatius’s full report here; it’s well worth your time.

The column underscores the continuing importance of a robust, independent inquiry into exactly what Russia did – or tried to do – to our election and what we must do to make sure it never happens again.

Republican congressional leaders, and some Democrats, continue to insist that standing congressional committees can handle the investigation. But those committees, like the rest of Congress, are divided on partisan lines and have a variety of responsibilities. And they would almost certainly lean heavily on the Justice Department, led by Trump insider Jeff Sessions, for investigative resources.

The Russians’ election hacking, confirmed by all 17 U.S intelligence activities, is almost certainly the gravest threat to American democracy since the Sept. 11 attacks. Getting to the bottom of it, and doing so in a way that inspires the confidence of our bitterly divided country, requires a true independent investigation.

A joint congressional committee, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats and the House and Senate and staffed by experienced lawyers and investigators with a mandate to give it their undivided attention, would meet those demands. Even better would be a special commission, similar to the 9/11 Commission, that would include not only members of Congress but experienced diplomats, retired senior military and intelligence officers and members of the judiciary.

The President clearly wants no part of any of this. What we need now is a Congress with the gumption to stand up to him and get it done.


Just after the November election, University of Michigan Prof. J. Alex Halderman declared that he’d found “persuasive evidence” that computer hacking might have swayed the vote counting in three critical swing states in a way that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump.

Examining returns from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, each won by Trump by razor thin margins, Halderman identified anomalies in the count that he speculated could reflect the work of cyber vandals.

Halderman is continuing to study data from all three states, though he now says he believes Trump’s victory was legitimate. Partial recounts in all three states “should give you additional confidence that the outcome was correct,” he told the Chronicle of Higher Education this week.

But Halderman continues to make the much-needed case that state officials need to step up their ballot security measures – a top Common Cause priority – to ensure that future Presidents and other elected officials are the people’s true choice and not put into office through criminal cyberattacks.

“The same vulnerability that existed before the election still exists, and maybe the vulnerability is even worse,” he told the Chronicle. “It wouldn’t really be that hard to mount an outcome-changing cyberattack, especially for a nation-state cyberattacker. If anything, I think the legal obstacles that the recounts faced would give an attacker maybe more courage in mounting such an attack, knowing they would be unlikely to be uncovered.”