Republicans Act on Russia
Two days ago, I published “Here Are Actions Republicans in Congress Could Take Rather Than Tweeting,” offering suggestions such as resolutions supporting the findings of the American intelligence community; stripping the executive branch of power that belongs to the legislative branch; and censure, among others. Yesterday, there were several actions taken by Republicans in Congress suggesting they may be unwilling to accept Trump’s missteps regarding Russia:
The Senate presented a unified front and unanimously voted 98-0 (Arizona Senator John McCain and Alabama Senator Richard Shelby were absent) in favor of a resolution opposing Putin’s proposal to allow the Russian government to interrogate certain Americans. S.Res. 584 was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and states:
It is the sense of Congress that the United States should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official, or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin.
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, was one of the individuals specifically mentioned by Putin as a target for interrogation. He expressed his gratitude to the Senate for rallying behind him and other Americans.
A bill introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in January gained momentum yesterday when eight senators joined the bill as co-sponsors. The eight senators were evenly split across the parties, with four Republicans — Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Charles Grassley (R-IA) — and four Democrats — Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
The bill would require the Director of National Intelligence to timely determine if any foreign governments attempt to interfere in American federal elections. It includes a list of actions that constitute interference and would trigger penalties including sanctions, the blacklisting of any individuals identified as participating, and partnering with allies to strengthen the punishment.
According to Sen. Rubio’s press release yesterday:
The legislation sends a powerful message to Russia and any other foreign actor seeking to disrupt our elections: if you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face severe consequences. The DETER Act uses the threat of powerful sanctions to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in our elections by ensuring that they know well in advance that the costs will outweigh the benefits.
Will Hurd’s NYT Op-Ed
Former C.I.A. officer and current U.S. Representative Will Hurd (R-TX) published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he observes “Trump is being manipulated by Putin” and offers recommendations on how to protect the United States.
Rep. Hurd notes Russia is a danger to “freedom-loving people everywhere” and has been for decades:
Russia is an adversary not just of the United States but of freedom-loving people everywhere. Disinformation and chaos is a Russian art form developed during the Soviet era that Russia has now updated using modern tools. The result has been Russian disinformation spreading like a virus throughout the Western world.
Last week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats announced “the warning lights are blinking red” when it comes to Russian cyberattacks. Rep. Hurd, who sits on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, echoed Director Coats’ concern and warned “the threat of Russian meddling in United States elections is not behind us.”
His op-ed includes ways for Congress to “take the lead on European security issues” and emphasizes Congress’ oversight responsibilities.
Rep. Hurd also warns how lack of action will impact the United States — which will therefore affect the world: “Without action, we risk losing further credibility in international negotiations with both our friends and foes on critical trade deals, military alliances and nuclear arms.”
These actions may not be perfect; acts of Congress almost never are. Indeed, it is necessary to ensure any actions by our government are constitutional, don’t violate the rights of Americans, and don’t impede liberty of citizens at home in the name of “security.” We must also make certain that we’re considering unintended consequences or future abuses of power.
However, as the majority party in Congress, it’s reassuring to see Republicans taking steps to protect America from attack. Republicans have for a long time claimed the mantle as the party of national security and foreign policy, and it would be a shame — and a danger to our country and to the world — to see them cede that ground.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.