I’ve spent many hours this summer watching Senate hearings on the integrity of American elections. Lest we forget the Church Committee, which investigated the CIA, or the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, the Watergate Committee, Congress can be one way Americans learn the truth. As a former Senate staffer, I have much respect for the professionalism and bipartisanship shown by the two leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Chairman Richard Burr (R-S.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) Nearly 20 million people watched Former FBI Director James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month. One of his warnings was that the Russians had come after American democracy “[a]nd they will be back.” But two other hearings that garnered much less attention left me troubled that the American electoral system won’t be fortified in time for the 2018 election. One hearing was about the history of Russian hacking in Europe and the other was about the reaction of state election officials to federal assistance in light of Russian interference.
In late June, the Senate intelligence committee heard from a group of experts about Russian interference in European elections. The roster of democratic contests the Russians tried to roil was long; it included Estonia, Ukraine, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany and France, and even included a failed coup last October to storm the Montenegrin parliament while members awaited election results and then kill the prime minister. (Prime Minister Dusko Markovic was the head of state President Trump notoriously shoved aside at his first NATO meeting in May.)
The experts urged the U.S. and Europe to take a united stand against future Russian interference in Western democracies. R. Nicholas Burns, the no. 3 ranking official in George W. Bush’s state department and a former ambassador to NATO testified, “NATO and the EU should work more closely together to strengthen our democracies in order to resist Russia’s campaign to weaken us. …We must also work with Canada and Europe to strengthen our local and state electoral arrangements— the sanctity of voting rolls and the procedures for tabulating votes– to harden our systems and to make them significantly more resistant to hacking and manipulation by Russian agents.”