Senate Democrats go around Mitch McConnell to do something about Russia election interference

Senate Democrats go around Mitch McConnell to do something about Russia election interference
Chuck Schumer image via U.S. Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has addressed the great purge of intelligence officials who have warned about Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere in the 2020 presidential election on behalf of impeached president Donald Trump—leaving out the part, of course, that it’s Trump it’s trying to help. “Recent reports suggest that adversaries including Russia are likely continuing efforts aimed at dividing Americans,” he said, “sowing chaos in our politics, and undermining confidence in our elections.” Then he issued this bucketload of bullshit: ”Fortunately, in stark contrast to the failures of the Obama admin in 2016, the Trump admin once again appears to be doing the right thing—in this case, by promptly providing a specific counterintelligence briefing to the Democratic presidential candidate in question.” Like the briefing McConnell got in 2016, the one where he threatened the CIA under President Barack Obama with all-out partisan warfare if the public was warned that Russia was trying to help Trump win. Of course, the Trump campaign didn’t need to be briefed that Russia was intervening on Trumps’ behalf—the campaign leadership was in on it!

McConnell won’t do a damn thing now to try to stop Russia, so Democrats in the Senate are going over his head, or attempting to. Sens. Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez, and Sherrod Brown are demanding that the Trump administration impose sanctions on Russia, an action that does not require Senate approval under existing authority. They’ve written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking them “to immediately and forcefully impose sanctions on Russia’s government, any Russian actors determined to be responsible for such interference, and those acting on their behalf or providing material or financial support for these election interference efforts.”

The three write that “it is long past time for the administration to send a direct, powerful and unmistakable message to President Putin: the US will respond immediately and forcefully to continuing election interference by the government of the Russian Federation and its surrogates, to punish, deter and substantially increase the economic and political costs of such interference.”

The lawmakers declare, ”We urge you to immediately draw upon the reported conclusions of the Intelligence Community to identify and target for sanctions all those determined to be responsible for ongoing elections interference, including President Putin, the government of the Russian Federation, any Russian actors determined to be directly responsible, and those acting on their behalf or providing material or financial support for their efforts. Doing anything less would be an abdication of your responsibility to protect and defend the US from this serious threat to our national security, and to the integrity of our electoral process.”

The administration could do this without any further action from Congress under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. It’s clear that McConnell won’t take up any of the legislation the House has passed to protect the election. It’s also pretty damned unlikely that the administration is going to turn away Vladimir Putin’s help in re-electing Trump, but it’s important to keep up that pressure. It should be amplified, maybe with some hearings in the House, with Pompeo and Mnuchin grilled about it with the cameras running.

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