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- Democrats have already been targeted by Russians attempting to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.
- Lawmakers say the Trump administration and other Republicans are not taking the issue seriously enough ahead of the elections in November.
- Republicans voted down an additional $250 million for states to bolster election and cyber security on Wednesday.
WASHINGTON — The Russian government’s efforts to spread disinformation, interfere, and hack US political campaigns did not end with the 2016.
While meddling and other nefarious activity have continued into the 2018 election cycle, including an attempted hacking of a Senate campaign, the Republicans tasked with countering the Russians are not doing nearly enough, lawmakers say.
The warnings have been clear that the Russians would continue their interference in US elections, which has been relayed by the intelligence community and from witnesses in countless congressional hearings. When a Daily Beast report revealed that Russians unsuccessfully targeted Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, it increased fears on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, revealed that her office had been targeted by phishing attacks.
“There has been one situation that we have turned over to authorities to look into, and we’re hearing that this is widespread, with political parties across the country, as well as with members of the Senate,” Shaheen said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
McCaskill told Business Insider that Republicans were taking hers and other lawmakers’ concerns “n ot seriously enough.”
Other lawmakers do not see a significant effort to counter the Russians and any others looking to inflict damage on the 2018 midterm elections this fall.
“This problem has not gone away,” Sen. Mark Warner told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s crazy that this White House still denies the validity of this ongoing threat.”
Warner, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted the threat of bots as a key part of misinformation campaigns and that “t his is an issue that is only going to grow in importance.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on Wednesday addressing the impact on social media by groups and state actors, which Warner said produced some shocking information.
“The Russians have gotten better at hiding their activities, but maybe one of the most remarkable things is Dr. Kelly’s comment that on the extreme, we’re seeing 25-30 times the amount of content generated by automation than by human beings,” he said.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican on the Intelligence Committee, told reporters that Facebook’s removal of pages and accounts part of a coordinated effort to influence the 2018 elections “ were a good initial step” that “would not have happened but for the work our committee did.”
But there are significant hurdles for lawmakers to overcome, paired with President Donald Trump’s view that Russians only want to help Democrats.
“I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election,” Trump wrote on Twitter last month. “Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans voted Democrats’ attempt to add an additional $250 million for states to bolster their cyber security as its relates to voting machines and elections.
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