Intelligence Community On Russia Threat
After the 2016 presidential election, Russia was determined to be a threat to voter integrity in the United States by our national intelligence community. Specifically, Russia has been trying to interfere with our democratic process by attempting to hack voting systems across local, state, and federal levels and spreading false information to sow division in America. During a White House press conference on August 2, 2018, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that “Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, laid out a similar message that day when he stated, “Russians are looking for every opportunity, regardless of party, regardless of whether or not it applies to the election, to continue their pervasive efforts to undermine our fundamental values.” And since last year, this message has been echoed by Homeland Security, the CIA, and the majority of Congress.
Trump’s Mixed Messages About Russia’s Threat
President Trump has proven time and time again to be an unreliable source of information. Though, perhaps one of the most detrimental things about his untrustworthy character remains to be his mixed attitudes towards the Russia threat. For example, during the July Helsinki Summit between President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump directly contradicted earlier top intelligence reports regarding Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 elections by saying, “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Though after fury from the American public, he stated that he meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would.” However, in the same press conference in which he claimed he misspoke, Trump added, “It could be other people also. A lot of people out there.” And though Trump finally admitted in that press conference that Russia meddled in our election, he has yet to outright condemn Russia for its continuous attempts to undermine American democracy.
How Trump Is Helping Russia
Though it may be unintentional, President Trump’s reluctance to forcefully condemn and take action against Russia for its broad campaign to undermine American democracy is only helping their case. For example, it’s clear that Russia’s goal in hacking voter election systems is to sow doubt upon the integrity of the American democratic system itself. But when we have the president of our United States, the leader of our nation, being hesitant to condemn Russia for an action that his own intelligence community has condemned, it sends a message to his supporters that they should be skeptical about what the rest of the government is saying as well. And when citizens of the United States begin to lose faith in the duties of the government officials that represent and serve them, the very idea of a representative government is doubted upon. As a result, a key pillar of American democracy is put in danger.
Furthermore, Russia’s part in spreading false information regarding important American affairs demonstrates that their campaign goes well beyond helping one candidate or party gain power. For instance, their willingness to spread fake news ranging from painting Hilary Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems to pushing a story that an anti-Trump protester was paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations shows their intent to cause distrust and disunity among Americans. Though instead of using his voice on Twitter to condemn Russia for its role in spreading fake news, Trump would rather use it to label domestic-produced media as the “enemy of the people“. In effect, he is portraying to the American people that sustaining American integrity in the accuracy of reported news should not be of high priority, which subtly helps Russia subvert yet another pillar of American democracy – the free press.
What Can Be Done
Thankfully, even the most powerful man in the world, President Donald Trump, cannot control the will of the American people. Although President Trump doesn’t encourage progressive action against Russian efforts to undermine American values, there is nothing hindering you from holding your local and state governments accountable for acquiring the proper funding to safeguard their voting machines from Russian cyberattacks. For example, if you are 18 or over, you can make sure to vote for more funding in the upcoming midterm elections, or at least vote for a candidate that makes it a priority. And if you are a minor, you can voice your concerns through emails or letters to your local and/or state government officials.
Another solution that you can advocate for through voting or contacting the government includes moving back to paper ballots. Although this form of voting would eliminate the cyber threat that Russia poses all together, paper balloting has its own flaws including, but not limited to, human error in counting the ballots and physical tampering. Lastly, regarding Russian-produced fake news on social media, you can help deter their efforts by reporting any suspicious news that you see to the social media platform it originated from.
President Donald Trump needs to be more cognizant of the message that he is sending to not only his supporters but all the citizens of this country by having a nonchalant attitude towards the Russian threat. As the leader of our country, he must take Russia’s attempts to meddle in our democratic process seriously and not just rely on his intelligence officials to do so. After all, Russia certainly depends on the doubt and division in America that Trump is inadvertently contributing to by having a carefree attitude towards their well-known campaign to meddle with our affairs; I can’t help but think that our country would have a lot less of that if its leader just did what he was elected to do – lead by example.
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