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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

“Moscow Mitch” sets the stage for Russia to hack the 2020 elections

Blocks debate on election security legislation passed by Democratic House

Image result for moscow mitchSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earned the nickname "Moscow Mitch" Friday after blocking lawmakers from taking action to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections just as the legislature he leads concluded that Russians meddled in the 2016 elections in all 50 states.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" anchor, Joe Scarborough, coined the name on his show Friday morning, condemning the Kentucky Republican for refusing to defend the country's electoral system when McConnell blocked the Senate from considering a House bill.

That bill would invest nearly $800 billion in strengthening election systems across the country, mandate the use of paper ballots to prevent election results from being hacked, and require all campaigns to notify authorities if they are offered assistance from a foreign country.

The nickname took off on social media.

Pic of the Moment
As McConnell blocked lawmakers from debating the bill, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that "cyberactors" in Russia waged "an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure" during the 2016 elections, interfering with elections in all 50 states. 

While there was no evidence that Russians changed any votes cast by U.S. voters, they "were in a position to delete or change voter data" in some states.

The committee said it appeared that Russia "intended to exploit vulnerabilities in the election infrastructure during the 2016 elections and, for unknown reasons, decided not to execute those options"—and may have been conducting research into possible methods of interference "for use at a later date."

As Scarborough noted, McConnell's refusal to consider the legislation also came a day after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee, warning lawmakers that "many more countries" are developing the ability to disrupt American elections and that without requiring campaigns and candidates to publicize efforts by foreign countries to aid them, foreign meddling could become "the new normal."

Mueller's report concluded that in 2016, Trump's son, Donald, Jr., welcomed a meeting with a Russian official who offered incriminating information about his father's opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

Trump's re-election campaign has refused to commit to notifying the federal government if they are offered help in 2020.

"How can Moscow Mitch so willingly turn a blind eye not only this year to what his Republican chairman of the Intel Committee is saying, to what Robert Mueller is saying, to what the FBI director is saying, to what the DNI is saying, to what the CIA is saying, to what the United States military [intelligence] community is saying?" said Scarborough.

McConnell dismissed the proposals to protect U.S. elections as "highly partisan."

As journalist Paul Waldman wrote at The Washington Post, "McConnell is right! Legislation to secure our elections is partisan."

"And the fact that it's partisan," he added, "shows just how pathological the Republican Party has become in its determination to hold on to power."