The House Judiciary Committee held hearings today on the Mueller report and its devastating findings of the Trump campaign efforts to collude with Russia, and Trump’s obstruction of justice thereof. The Republican message, articulated by ranking member Doug Collins, is that this is all in the distant past — the Mueller report came out in early spring; it’s already late spring — and we should focus on the future. “We’re not bringing Russians front and center,” he complained. “If we were attacked, then the priorities should be to go on the battlefields and not to the sideshow.”
Funny thing about that: There actually are a lot of bills to safeguard the 2020 elections from the next Russian attack. Mitch McConnell is blocking all of them.
The New York Times reported a few days ago that McConnell is refusing to bring to a vote any bill to safeguard the elections from foreign attack. There’s a Democratic bill to provide election funding to state and local governments. There’s a bipartisan Senate bill to “codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials, and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.” McConnell won’t allow any of them to come to a vote.
The threat from Russian election interference is actually quite severe. Russian intelligence breached at least one Florida county computer system and planted malware in a manufacturer of vote-tabulating machines, according to the Mueller report. While the probability that Russian hackers could actually change the outcome of the next election is low, the consequences would be extraordinarily high — especially if they do so by actual vote-rigging rather than mere information warfare.
Exactly why McConnell is so blasé about this threat is impossible to say, but the next time McConnell takes some action that sacrifices his partisan interests for the greater good will be the first.
Of course, Collins’s whole notion that guarding against the next Russian political operation requires halting all investigation of the last one is obviously disingenuous in the first place. The Mueller report shows in detail that Trump and almost everybody working for him welcomed Russian help, legal or otherwise. The reason the government isn’t doing more to protect our democracy from the next attack is that the people who cooperated with the last attack don’t want to.