A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee released on Thursday found that Russia’s efforts to access election systems in the United States was more far-reaching than previously reported and largely undetected by election officials, The New York Times reports.
The first volume of the panel’s report reviewing Russia’s attack on the 2016 election was highly redacted, including some of the recommendations for securing the 2020 elections, but revealed that Russia targeted election systems in all 50 states in 2016. The report was released just a day after former special counsel Bob Mueller testified to Congress that the Russians were interfering in the upcoming election “as we sit here.”
The report detailed “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” that was aimed at finding security vulnerabilities in state election systems.
The report said there was no evidence that any votes were changed but said “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data,” though it found no evidence that they did so.
The report described a “cascading intelligence failure,” The Times reported, including how intel agencies underestimated the Russian threat and how state officials did little to heed warnings.
The report said that Russia’s military intelligence unit may have “intended to exploit vulnerabilities in the election infrastructure during the 2016 elections and, for unknown reasons, decided not to execute those options.” The report suggested they may have been planning for options to “use at a later date.”
The panel recommended ensuring there were paper backups for all votes, more intelligence sharing among agencies, and greater efforts to secure systems from intrusions.
Mueller issued stark warning:
The report was released a day after Mueller testified to Congress that Russia remains a threat and said many other “countries are developing capability to replicate what the Russians have done.”
"It wasn't a single attempt. They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign," Mueller said Wednesday.
“I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is,” he later added.
Mueller said he hoped his report, which extensively detailed Russian efforts in 2016, would serve as a “message to those who come after us… “a signal, a flag, to those of us who have some responsibility in this area, to exercise those responsibilities swiftly and don’t let this problem continue to linger.”
McConnell didn’t get the message:
Despite Mueller’s warnings and the Senate committee’s findings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday blocked two election security bills from unanimous consent.
McConnell blocked a bill that would have required the use of paper ballots and provided funding to the Election Assistance Commission and another bill that would have required campaigns to report offers of foreign election help to authorities.
"This is partisan legislation from the Democratic House of Representatives," McConnell said.
"It's very important that we maintain the integrity and security of our elections in our country," the GOP leader said, adding that, "any Washington involvement in that task needs to be undertaken with extreme care, extreme care and on a thoroughly bipartisan basis. Obviously this legislation is not that. It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia."
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer accused the GOP of “putting their heads in the sand.”
"Mueller's testimony was a clarion call for election security," Schumer said. "Mueller's testimony should be a wake-up call to every American, Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, that the integrity of our elections is at stake."