The recent indictment of a Russian national accused of trying to interfere in U.S. elections shows that not enough has been done to stop Russia from trying to illegally influence American voters in 2018, experts say.
Knowledgeable people have been warning the public for a long time that Russia is trying to influence voters this year. They say Friday’s indictment which revealed details of the alleged attempts to sway the public, shows that the penalties against Russia haven’t been enough to shut down their campaigns to disrupt American elections, and ultimately, our democracy.
“This indictment makes it clear once again that the Russians spent millions of dollars in an organized effort to interfere in our election, and exacerbate divisions in our country, yet the president has done nothing,” David Kris, the former assistant attorney general for national security during the Obama administration.
“It is helpful that the American people are more aware of this influence campaign but that is not enough,” he continued. “This administration needs to hold Russia accountable and work to prevent them from doing this again.”
Friday’s complaint charged Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova with handling the finances for a Russian group that worked to influence U.S. elections. Khusyaynova was the first person to be indicted for attempting to interfere in the 2018 U.S. elections.
Robert Mueller had indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities earlier this year, charging them with fraud and conspiracy in their efforts to influence the 2016 election. But this new indictment shows the illegal Russian influence campaigns are continuing.
Also on Friday several U.S. intelligence agencies, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), warned of “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China and Iran “to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies.”
Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi said that the department “has certainly been aggressive at investigating interference and influence-related crimes and bringing charges when we are able across a wide range of influence and interference incidents.”
Despite this, experts are saying that the U.S. still has not done enough to counter election interference and to protect election processes. And they say that the latest indictment proves that our government must take an even tougher approach with Moscow.
National security adviser John Bolton was in Moscow and told reporters that while in the Kremlin he advised Russian officials that he didn’t believe Russia had any impact on the 2016 election, but warned them against attempting to influence elections in the future.
“The point I made to Russian colleagues today was that I didn’t think, whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016 election, that they had any effect on it, but what they have had an effect in the United States is to sow enormous distrust of Russia,” Bolton told a Russian radio station. “And it’s a major obstacle to achieving agreement on issues where our national interest may converge, so I said, just from a very cold blooded cost benefit ratio, that you shouldn’t meddle in our elections because you’re not advancing Russian interest, and I hope that was persuasive to them.”
John Carlin, a former U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, explained the significance of the Khusyaynova indictment. He said:
“The most significant thing is that it shows for the first time in a criminal charge…that the Russian campaign to interfere in our elections is not last elections news, but it’s a problem of right now. This includes conduct aimed at our current elections in 2018.”
Carlin added that while the U.S. has imposed previous sanctions on Russia, it still hasn’t done enough. He said the penalties for interference campaigns are not enough to outweigh the benefits for Putin. Carlin advised that the U.S. pass legislation to ensure that sanctions would definitely be implemented in situations where foreign election interference was prove to have occurred.
The warning has been issued: Russians are interfering in American elections right now, with just two weeks to go until the midterms. The question is: what are we going to do about it? Sadly, with Republicans in charge of Congress and the presidency, it appears that far too little has been done, and our country is very vulnerable to attack.
Hopefully with new people in charge of at least one house of Congress after the midterms there will be a new, tougher approach to Russian election interference in the future.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.