Trump and GOP Congress leave our elections vulnerable to Russian attack, Democrats offer a plan to secure our elections

Following the announcement on Friday that 13 Russians and an American citizen have been indicted for their role in foreign interference in the 2016 election, our Twitter-troll-in chief responded like a defendant demonstrating Consciousness of Guilt:

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Trump has posted a series of tweets over the weekend asserting his innocence and attempting to cast blame on others for the Russian attack on the 2016 election. But Trump has not responded as any American president would, whose solemn duty it is to protect the nation at war with a hostile adversary. Trump has not been critical of his pal Vladimir Putin, nor condemned the Russian interference in the 2016 election, nor kicked Russian diplomats out of the country, nor imposed the sanctions mandated by Congress that he has so far refused to impose. He has done nothing to hold Russia accountable for its actions.

Trump’s national security advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster says the evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election is “incontrovertible.” Trump’s National Security Chief Calls Russian Interference ‘Incontrovertible’:

Just hours after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians in what it charged was a broad conspiracy to alter the 2016 election, President Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, accused Moscow of engaging in a campaign of “disinformation, subversion and espionage” that he said Washington would continue to expose.

The evidence of a Russian effort to interfere in the election “is now incontrovertible,” General McMaster said at the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of European and American diplomats and security experts, including several senior Russian officials. On Friday, just hours before the indictment, the top White House official for cyberissues accused Russia of “the most destructive cyberattack in human history,” against Ukraine last summer.

But our always insecure egomaniacal man-child Twitter-troll-in-chief Trump rebuked McMaster after he says proof of Russian hacking is ‘incontrovertible’:

In a late-night tweet Saturday, President Trump hit out at McMaster, saying he “forgot” to mention that the Russians had not impacted the results of the election and that there had been no collusion with his campaign. Both are frequent Trump talking points that have not been substantiated by intelligence agency conclusions or investigators.

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Again, more Consciousness of Guilt.

The New York Times today states the threat that Trump poses to the United States succinctly: Trump’s Conspicuous Silence Leaves a Struggle Against Russia Without a Leader:

After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication: “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he wrote on Twitter.

He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.

* * *

In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption. His administration has at times called out Russia or taken action, and even Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, speaking in Germany on Saturday, called evidence of Russian meddling “incontrovertible.” But the administration has been left to respond without the president’s leadership.

“It is astonishing to me that a president of the United States would take this so lightly or see it purely through the prism of domestic partisanship,” said Daniel Fried, a career diplomat under presidents of both parties who is now at the Atlantic Council. He said it invariably raised questions about whether Mr. Trump had something to hide. “I have no evidence that he’s deliberately pulling his punches because he has to, but I can’t dismiss it. No president has raised those kinds of questions.”

Rather than condemn Russia for its actions, Mr. Trump in the past has said he accepts the denial offered by President Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Trump has not imposed new sanctions called for in a law passed by Congress last year to retaliate for the attack on America’s political system, or teamed up with European leaders to counter a common threat. He has not led a concerted effort to harden election systems in the United States with midterm congressional elections on the horizon, or pressed lawmakers to pass legislation addressing the situation.

Michael A. McFaul, an ambassador to Moscow under President Barack Obama, called Mr. Trump’s reaction to the indictments “shockingly weak” and said he should instead have criticized Mr. Putin for violating American sovereignty or even announced plans to punish Moscow.

“Instead, he just focused on his own campaign,” Mr. McFaul said. “America was attacked, and our commander-in-chief said nothing in response. He looks weak, not only in Moscow but throughout the world.”

Moreover, President Trump  and his supplicant Tea-Publican Congress have done nothing to secure this year’s elections from Russia’s ongoing interference in our elections.

State elections officials said Saturday that they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. State elections officials fret over cybersecurity threats:

At a conference of state secretaries of state in Washington, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states.

Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year. And state officials say reticence on the part of Homeland Security to share sensitive information about the incidents could hamper efforts to prepare for the midterms.

The frustrations were evident despite the fact that federal intelligence officials a day earlier had for the first time given a classified briefing to state officials about potential foreign threats on elections.

“We got some new information that was interesting. Did it change the course of what we were going to do or not do [in 2018]? No,” said Michele Reagan, Arizona secretary of state.

* * *

State officials have been scrambling to address vulnerabilities in their systems, particularly since the fall, when the Department of Homeland Security disclosed the attempts on the 21 states. Though it is not believed there were further attacks, experts say Russian operatives may have been laying the groundwork for a more aggressive effort in 2018.

Hackers “got close enough to the line” in 2016 and it “could be different or worse the next time around,” said Bob Kolasky, a senior DHS official who oversees infrastructure protection.

* * *

State elections officials and cybersecurity experts are pressuring Congress to act, asking lawmakers to appropriate all the federal funds approved in 2002 for election security. They also want lawmakers to pass legislation that would enact sweeping changes to strengthen U.S. election cybersecurity.

With shrinking state budgets and no new federal funds in sight, some states are years behind in replacing decades-old voting machines, equipping election employees with the latest technology, or auditing elections to make sure ballots were counted accurately.

Efforts to bolster security are hampered by the patchwork nature of election systems in the states, which are in charge of administering their own elections.

Moreover, some states have hundreds of local election agencies, each with varying levels of technical expertise. That makes it difficult to add security measures statewide.

* * *

It’s not just government systems that states worry about. Most states rely on a contracted company for technical expertise that states can’t afford to do on their own. Yet this could lead to vulnerabilities: Last year, a data breach on a third-party voting machine company exposed nearly 2 million Chicago voter records.

An attack on one vendor could affect many elections, because some vendors serve several states. And smaller vendors may not have enough resources to defend themselves against sophisticated attacks, said researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center who study election security.

Another important way to secure elections, experts say, is to make sure voting machines are upgraded to retain paper backup copies of ballots. This allows states to review election results to make sure ballots were counted accurately. But this is expensive, and states vary widely in how much of this technology they have adopted. Five states still rely on a digital-only recording system.

While Trump and his Tea-Publican Congress have done nothing to secure our elections, Democrats released a 56-page report — written without GOP involvement — that laid out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged electoral interference around the world. And Democrats offered legislation,  dubbed the Election Security Act. Democrats barrel ahead on Russia with election security report:

House Democrats issued their most detailed plea yet Wednesday for action to protect the midterm elections from Russian interference, including asking for over $1 billion in grants to upgrade and secure the country’s voting infrastructure.

The requests came in the form of a 56-page report and legislation that aims to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to states grappling with aging voting machines and insufficient IT budgets.

The move is the latest in a series of unilateral efforts by Democrats to call attention to the vulnerabilities of the United States’ election systems. The memo proclaims that many in the GOP “still refuse” to address the dangers of attacks from other nations, despite abundant evidence of Russia’s meddling in 2016.

“The unprecedented attack by Russia exposed serious national security vulnerabilities in our election infrastructure,” says the report, which was roughly six months in the making. “We urge Congress to act in a bipartisan fashion and take action — to provide the necessary funding, to take seriously the recommendations of this Task Force, and to recognize that election security is national security.”

Voting integrity experts warn that time is running out to take action before the November midterms. And they argue the federal government must play a greater role if the country is to stave off a new round of interference by Moscow’s hackers, which U.S. intelligence leaders have warned is all but inevitable.

In recent weeks, Democrats released a hefty memo — written without GOP involvement — that laid out Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged electoral interference around the world.

* * *

Wednesday’s report — spearheaded by House Homeland Security ranking Democrat Bennie Thompson and Rep. Bob Brady, ranking member on the Administration Committee, which oversees elections — focuses on what steps the federal government should take. The recommendations, and accompanying bill, closely hew to the advice of election and cybersecurity experts and reflect the wishes of cash-strapped states, many of which have urged the federal government to help fill the financial void.

In the report, the Democrats urged Congress to immediately send $300 million to states to upgrade their voting machines to protect against foreign meddling, then provide more money later for cybersecurity training, voter database security improvements and grants to ward off future threats.

The legislation, dubbed the Election Security Act, goes even farther. It would authorize a $1 billion grant program for election officials seeking to buy more secure voting machines, conduct digital flaw screenings, hire new technology staffers and develop better cybersecurity training for employees. It would also offer each states $1 for each voter that participated in the most recent election as a way to ensure ongoing funding.

The White House’s recently released budget proposal for requests a boost for cyber spending across the board, but doesn’t specifically address election security grants for states.

Democrats also want more money for the Department of Homeland Security, which has been working to provide states with election security services — such as weekly digital vulnerability scans and comprehensive, in-person examinations of the entire system used to run an election. The legislation would order DHS to expand such services and would authorize a $6.25 million annual grant for DHS to give to election security research projects.

Additionally, the report recommends boosting the budget of the Election Assistance Commission — a federal agency that provides voluntary guidance for states and tests voting machines — to recognize “its expanded role in election cybersecurity.”

Under the Democrats’ proposed legislation, the EAC would manage the $1 billion grant program.

But Republicans have made repeated efforts to defund the EAC, arguing it has outlived its original mandate of helping states use the federal aid they received after the 2000 presidential election debacle.

* * *

Election technology vendors received particular scrutiny in Wednesday’s report and legislation. Specifically, the Democrats’ bill would only allow states to spend federal grant money if voting system sellers agree to report cyberattacks to the authorities and adhere to security guidelines set by the EAC and DHS.

Voting technology vendors have increasingly drawn the ire of the security community, which argues the industry has escaped meaningful oversight and refuses to engage with researchers, academics or government officials. Election software vendors are also in the spotlight following the leak of an apparent National Security Agency report that detailed a Russian plot to infiltrate a voting database software supplier and use that perch to send local election officials malware-laden emails.

These vendors, the Democrats’ report says, “have little financial incentive to prioritize election security, and are not subject to regulations requiring them to use cybersecurity best practices.”

Separately, the Democrats’ proposal stumps for several new documents from the Trump administration. The bill would order U.S. spy agencies to produce a threat assessment six months before every federal election and directs the White House to develop a national strategy for countering foreign attempts to undermine elections.

Some of the steps the report advocates are already underway. One recommendation says the federal government should continue to classify election systems as “critical infrastructure.” In its final days, the Obama administration applied that designation to give the election sector the same access to the federal government’s cybersecurity services that the banking and energy industries receive.

Other recommendations include directions for states. One urges states to conduct sophisticated “risk-limiting” audits after their elections, which cybersecurity experts call the best way to ensure hackers aren’t meddling with vote tallies. Colorado recently became the first state to require such audits, while a few other states like Rhode Island and Virginia are set to adopt them shortly.

The bill that accompanied the report would establish a $20 million grant program states could tap to adopt these risk-limiting audits.

The report and legislative offering keep up the steady drumbeat from Democrats that Republicans and the Trump administration are not doing enough to counter the Kremlin’s rising global influence.

Democrats’ have also repeatedly accused the administration of showing feckless leadership in the effort to prevent future Russian interference. In particular, Attorney General Jeff Sessions took fire from lawmakers after seemingly failing to follow through on a pledge to look into what the Justice Department was doing to bolster election security.

Senate Democrats hammered home all these themes during their parade of floor speeches last week.

Democrats have found some willing partners across the aisle to push several of the proposals contained in Wednesday’s report.

In December, a bipartisan group led by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced a bill to create block grants for voting machine upgrades. Previously, Klobuchar and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had also pushed a similar proposal that would let states apply for federal grants to update election technology after proving they had adopted certain cybersecurity standards.

Most recently, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) released a bill that would slap penalties on foreign countries caught meddling in U.S. elections.

Still, none of the offerings has received much consideration. And election security advocates warn that every day Congress spends fighting over keeping the government open is another day not spent moving legislation that could help the country fend off hackers in the next election.

The report echoed that sentiment.

“The attacks in 2016 preview what is yet to come,” it said. “The threat remains, and Congress must act.”

Time is of the essence. The first primary elections are held in March. Contact your representatives and senators and demand action now. The failure to act is malfeasance.

17 responses to “Trump and GOP Congress leave our elections vulnerable to Russian attack, Democrats offer a plan to secure our elections

  1. And here is Trump’s head cheerleader (our very own Martha McSally) singing the national anthem at Tucson bowling alley.

    Martha McSally
    Verified account

    @RepMcSally
    Feb 17

    Honored to sing our National Anthem at the 74th Annual City Open Bowling Championships right here in Tucson!

    https://twitter.com/RepMcSally/status/965086871083732993

    • I looked for this on YouTube. It wasn’t there but there were five others. This one is from January 14, 2018.

    • So, what do y’all think?

      If she fails take either Flake or McCain’s seat, will her singing career take off?

      • For Sure Not Tom

        This is a touchy subject for me. After countless ballgames and stock car races going back decades, I’ve only heard the song done well a handful of times.

        However, the song is about war and bombs and killing slaves, so it’s right up McSally alley.

        I think we need a new anthem, one more in line with our actual values.

        But not this….but the comment are priceless…

        • For Sure Not Tom

          • For Sure Not Tom

            That’s former US Attorney General John Ashcroft, who along with song stylist fame, had the naked breast of the Spirit of Justice statue in the DoJ building hidden by curtains.

            He was also a fan of torture.

            McSally is in the right party.

          • Lol. I didn’t know that John Ashcroft was a crooner. Well, FWIW, he goes down easier than Martha.

            And I agree. We should have a new anthem.

          • Totally coincidental, but I happened to see this. YES, we need a new anthem. We deserve better (at least some of us).

          • For Sure Not Tom

            Fergie, like most of today’s pop stars, relies on AutoTune. I get into a lot of trouble with my friends and family when I point this out.

            As a musician who has backed up more than a few bad singers, she stands out as particularly awful.

            My case against for changing the National Anthem is rock solid.

            I suggest Slow Ride by Foghat.

          • Naw, they’re British.

            We need a new anthem that is true to our history but still makes us proud to be Americans. That means it has to be about the hope and resilience of the people, what still could be p0ssible for this country despite our failures and setbacks.

            Sounds like a job for John Legend.

  2. Sen. John Kavanagh

    Let’s not forget that there is still no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion or of Russia influencing any election in the U. S.

  3. For Sure Not Tom

    Trump paid for a trademark on Make America Great Again in 2012, and was Tweeting about running for President starting in 2009.

    He’s a lying liar and a Russian stooge.

    • Not to mention the Vulgar Talking Yam was in Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Teen America pageant. What are the odds Vlad and his buddies were “grooming” or compromising the VTY while he was there?

      What the VTY and the Republicans have done is far worse than what Benedict Arnold did. Benedict merely conspired with the British to hand over West Point. The VTY and the Republicans conspired with a hostile foreign power to destroy the faith in our electoral system and government by sowing discord among the electorate. All to enact a cancerous agenda geared towards the United Feudal States of America.

      May the VTY and his cohorts live long doing hard time in Fort Leavenworth.