The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday released the first of what it plans as five separate reports on the Russian attack against the 2016 presidential election, just one day after special counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress that the Russian government was continuing its interference in the American election process “as we sit here,” and will also attempt to manipulate the 2020 presidential election, as CNN reported.
The 61-page report, which covers only Russia’s infiltration of “election infrastructure” and is readable online via the Senate Intelligence Committee site, contains dire warnings of its own, getting far more specific than Mueller in his warning issued Wednesday.
In his own addendum to the report, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden states one disastrous scenario. “If Russia’s preferred candidate does not prevail in the 2020 election, the Russians may seek to delegitimize the election.”
In 2016, the preferred candidate was Donald Trump, Mueller testified on Wednesday, as reported by Roll Call. His testimony echoed the consensus findings of the United States intelligence agencies.
Mueller also stated in his own report, published online by The New York Times, that the Russian election attack was “a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump.” So far no indications have emerged that the Russian government prefers a candidate other than Trump to win the 2020 election.
Russian President Vladimir Putin himself was asked at a 2018 joint press conference with Trump in Helsinki, Finland, if he had wanted Trump to win the 2016 election, as well as “if he directed any officials to help him do that,” according to a CNN report. Putin’s response was, “Yes, I did.”
The Senate Intelligence report, as Carnegie Endowment Fellow in cybersecurity Jon Bateman noted via Twitter, recommends that the best way to stop Russian attacks in the 2020 election is for individual states to “remain firmly in the lead on running elections,” even though the report also reveals that Russian hackers infiltrated voting infrastructure systems in “all 50 states” during the 2016 election cycle. But the committee also found that state governments were often unprepared for the Russian attacks, and even disbelieved warnings about them, refusing federal help to combat the Russian hacking.
Only Wyden dissented from the committee’s recommendation, writing in a “minority view” addendum to the report that “defense of U.S. national security against a highly sophisticated foreign government cannot be left to state and county officials.”
The committee report says that it found no evidence that actual vote totals were altered or manipulated by the Russian cyber-attackers, as National Public Radio reported. But the report also admitted that “the Committee and Intelligence Community’s insight into this is limited.” Though the committee found Russian attempts to tamper with U.S. elections going back to 2014, the 2016 elections saw “unprecedented” levels of Russian cyber attacks.