For a man who has regularly cast doubt on the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump made comments at a Tuesday news conference that were surprisingly on point. “We won’t allow that to happen,” Mr. Trump said about the prospect of further foreign interference, promising to “counteract whatever they do.” He said the government was conducting “a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.” This is closer to what the commander in chief should be saying in the wake of a hostile foreign influence campaign. Yet it falls short of wholehearted acceptance of the intelligence community’s continuing alarm about Russian capabilities and intentions. And the president’s words are meaningless unless backed by actions, which, by many accounts, are still lacking.
For example, when asked about what the administration has done to combat the Russian threat, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week pointed to a fresh $40 million the State Department just committed to countering foreign propaganda. But that $40 million infusion is, in fact, an example of how the Trump administration has slow-walked the response to Russia’s interference in 2016.
The money is going to the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, an office President Barack Obama created to combat the spread of terrorist propaganda online. In late 2016, Congress decided to boost its funding substantially, transferring some money from the Defense Department, and to expand its mission to include combating the spread of misinformation emanating from foreign governments.