Sen.: WH not paying attention to Russia threat

CNN's Manu Raju speaks with Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on their concern that the White House has not done enough to impede Russian threats ahead of the midterm elections.

Posted: Aug 3, 2018 10:19 AM
Updated: Aug 3, 2018 10:31 AM

Two leading senators are asserting that President Donald Trump has not focused on the clear threat the Kremlin poses in the 2018 elections, with one Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee contending that Russian hackers may have already targeted most -- if not all -- sitting US senators.

Ratcheting up the push for a more robust US response to Russian interference in the midterms and 2020 elections, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are now slated to get a committee vote this month on a bipartisan bill is aimed at shoring up the nation's election system. But the two senators said their plan has run into hurdles for months -- and say the Russian threat is real headed into the midterms.

In a joint interview as the primary season wraps up and with the November midterms less than 100 days away, the senators told CNN Wednesday that there is far more that has to be done -- from the White House on down to the states.

"The intelligence community has been very active on this, the Department of Homeland Security has been active on this," Lankford said. "While the President has been inconsistent in his tweets, and some of the messaging that he's put on it, he's the only one in the government that hasn't been paying attention to this."

Klobuchar added: "There were clearly delays based on things the President was saying that weren't really directing their people to coordinate, they've admitted that under oath. But from the very beginning, Director (Dan) Coats made it clear that Russia has been emboldened and they're getting bolder."

The senators revealed that one of the Russian targets appear to be themselves. Asked about a Daily Beast report that Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has been targeted by Russian hackers, Lankford acknowledged that virtually every senator has faced a similar threat, calling it a "pretty regular thing around here."

"I would be shocked if there's a senator that hasn't been targeted, quite frankly," said Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Because this a common issue for people trying to get in to get access to your information. And if they can get access into one office, they can get access into multiple offices. So they can look for any spot they were able to get into."

The comments come as Congress is moving to toughen the US response to Russian aggression in the elections amid growing bipartisan angst that the administration is not moving swiftly enough. After Trump's handling of last month's summit with Vladimir Putin was widely panned, Senate Republicans have called for more sanctions on the Kremlin -- and more lawmakers are calling for new legislation to force the federal government and states to take more significant action.

Asked about the Helsinki summit, Lankford said that Trump should have told Putin that Russian interference is "not acceptable anywhere in the world. You do that to your own people as you've done for years and year and years, but you can't do it to other people. I think that would've been a much clearer, much bolder statement to be able to confront him. The President chose not to do that for whatever reason, but I do think that's a missed opportunity."

The Secure Elections Act, a bill proposed by Klobuchar and Lankford and cosponsored by 10 other senators, s aimed at bolstering the state and federal response to cybersecurity and other threats posed in the elections, including by giving state officials security clearances to evaluate classified intelligence and respond to potential threats while also requiring auditing procedures after the elections to ensure the results can be verified. With 14 states lacking paper ballots, Klobuchar said they're encouraging states to "have some kind of a back-up paper ballot system" in order to get money to bolster their election systems.

The bill is slated to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee later this month. Its prospects on the Senate floor, and in the House, are uncertain.

After Congress set aside $380 million for states on election security earlier this year, critics on Capitol Hill have faulted the administration and states for not doing more. And Lanford and Klobuchar said they've encountered their own resistance from state officials.

"We've had our own frustration of working through the legislation," Lankford said. "Quite frankly, a lot of what we've had to work through over months and months is working with the states to make sure the states are in a place that they wanna be able to sign off on this bill."

Whether the bill would even deter the persistent Russian threat is still an open question.

Asked if Russians could tip the midterm elections this year, Klobuchar said: "Certainly, if they somehow got into the equipment and made changes to the vote counts. That would be called tilting the election."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844951

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161002006
Mobile741871379
Madison53279732
Shelby38325368
Baldwin38068589
Tuscaloosa36009641
Montgomery34482781
Lee25550263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22451406
Etowah20013517
Marshall18777316
Houston17727425
St. Clair16875358
Limestone16135218
Cullman16044303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14968306
Talladega14189299
DeKalb12967269
Walker12020380
Blount10714192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10157194
Coffee9414192
Colbert9334208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7254201
Russell707765
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6932195
Franklin6340108
Chambers5783142
Marion5401130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318189
Cherokee317563
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254460
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184947
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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