With the midterm election only a few months away, government officials working to counter election interference from Russia have been operating with no strategy from the top, including from President Donald Trump’s fractured National Security Council, leaving each agency to fend for itself without White House support or direction, according to lawmakers and national security officials who spoke with CNN. On Friday, following bipartisan criticism about the White House’s focus on pressuring Russia on election interference, Trump is expected to convene a meeting of the NSC to discuss election interference efforts where high-ranking officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to attend. Further details, including Trump’s planned remarks, weren’t available.
Defense of America’s electoral system has traditionally centered around the security of election infrastructure, like voting machines and voter rolls. However, as indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller allege, Russian operatives also seek to exploit weaknesses in the cyber infrastructure of individual political campaigns, while weaponizing social media platforms to spread targeted disinformation.
Despite President Trump’s reassurance last Tuesday that, “We’re doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018,” Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said the White House isn’t taking the lead.
“I think it’s an embarrassment that this White House has not made election security a top priority and has not put the kind of attention and focus on it that we need,” Warner said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Guidance from the White House on an issue like this would normally come from the West Wing’s NSC. But intelligence and congressional sources tell CNN that isn’t happening.