Midterm elections are coming up, and all evidence points to continuing interference from Russia — and possibly other foreign entities as well. But President Trump has taken few serious steps toward minimizing or discouraging Russia from election meddling. And on Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton called Trump out on Twitter for failing to act on the threat posed by the Kremlin.
In her tweet, Clinton wrote in part, "The Russians are still coming. Our intelligence professionals are imploring Trump to act. Will he continue to ignore & surrender, or protect our country?" She opened her tweet by clarifying she was writing in her capacity as a former secretary of state and as "an American."
Clinton linked to a Washington Post article entitled "Cyber chief says Trump has given him no new authority to strike at Russian interference threat." The article includes several quotes from the head of U.S. Cyber Command, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, all of which suggest the likelihood of future Russian interference in American elections is high.
Rogers testified Tuesday in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Of Vladimir Putin, he stated that the Russian president "has clearly come to the conclusion that 'there's little price to pay here and therefore I can continue this activity.'"
Other representatives of the intelligence community also faced a litany of questions from senators, many of whom struggled to mask their frustration with the response thus far to the threat of Russian interference. Earlier in the month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats admitted that there was "no single agency in charge" of thwarting Russian interference, Sen. Mark R. Warner was less than pleased.
"The fact that we don't have clarity about who's in charge means, I believe, we don't have a full plan," he said. And the lack of a sole agency leading the intelligence effort against Russian meddling is hardly the only obstacle to securing American elections.
Despite a 98 to 2 vote in the Senate approving new sanctions targeting Russia for its intrusion in the 2016 election, Trump has thus far refused to carry them out. Tim Mak, a reporter covering Washington politics for NPR, said on Morning Edition that "this really does come from the top," noting that Trump has "been very reluctant to acknowledge that Russia ever had any dealings that might've influenced the election or helped him in any way."
This presidential take is mirrored in the fact that Trump has not given the intelligence community explicit permission to go beyond their previous (and obviously insufficient) strategies to combat Russian interference.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asked if Trump had directed any of them to take "specific action" to prevent Russian influence in future elections. None of the intelligence heads there — including FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and CIA Director Mike Pompeo — said the president had given them a detailed directive to actively stop the Russians from meddling again. Reed expressed exasperation at the shared reporting between agencies that several intelligence heads cited as proof of their coordination.
"The simple question I've posed is, has the president directed the intelligence community in a coordinated effort, not merely to report but to actively stop this activity," Reed stated. He observed that there's already ample reporting "about every threat going into the United States."
Clinton's tweet suggests she shares the frustration with a cyber response to Russia that seems far from able to successfully combat the threat to American democracy posed by the Kremlin.
Countless think pieces on how Russia's role led to Clinton's defeat in 2016 were recently joined by an entire book devoted to the subject — Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House, by former Guardian Russia correspondent Luke Harding.
The issue of Russian interference is a personal one for Clinton, obviously. But it's also a personal issue for all Americans who care about the integrity and longevity of their democracy. The intelligence agencies are currently unable to confidently assert there's no risk of foreign influence in national elections. And Trump could do something about it — it's just unclear that he wants to.
Disclosure: Hillary Clinton's son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky joined Social Capital, an investor in Bustle Digital Group, in mid 2017 and joined the Board of Bustle Digital Group in early 2018.