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No, Mitch McConnell, it isn't 'case closed'

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- No, Mitch McConnell, it isn't "case closed."

No, Mr. Leader, it's not "finally over."

No, we're not going to "end this." Neither will we "move on."

We, as a nation, won't move on -- we can't move on -- because Vladimir Putin hasn't moved on.

The majority leader took to the Senate floor Tuesday morning to declare his findings nearly three weeks after the release of the Mueller report. In summary: Nothing to see here. Move along.

But even as the Kentucky Republican made that case, FBI Director Christopher Wray was nearby in the Capitol complex testifying to a Senate panel that "the malign foreign influence threat … is something that continues pretty much 365 days a year."

 

Russia seeks to disrupt our elections again in 2020, with hacking and social media attacks and techniques unknown. Yet McConnell has the chutzpah to pronounce it "case closed" -- when he has been the leading obstacle to defending the U.S. election system against cyberattack by the Russians. Intelligence experts have been beating the drums to build defenses against a repeat of 2016. Every step of the way, McConnell has resisted. Perhaps he figures that because Putin helped his guy in 2016, he'll do the same again in 2020?

Back in the summer of 2016, when the CIA briefed McConnell and other congressional leaders on Russia's attempts to undermine election systems and to get Donald Trump elected, McConnell questioned the underpinnings of the intelligence. He forced the watering down of a letter from congressional leaders warning state officials about the threat, omitting mention of Russia.

In early 2018, Congress approved a modest $380 million (of a necessary $1 billion or more) to update election infrastructure. When Democrats pushed for an additional $250 million that summer for election cybersecurity, McConnell's Republicans blocked the measure, which had majority support.

Then came the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, originally introduced by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and three Democrats, and later endorsed by Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.. But after White House objections, the Senate Rules Committee, at McConnell's behest, abruptly halted the bill's consideration last summer. "I think the leader does not share my sense that we need to pass a bill right now," the committee chairman, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told a trade publication.

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