In the past week, a series of dramatic congressional hearings have sought to plumb possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – or possible presidential obstruction of justice over the matter, which special counsel Robert Mueller is now reportedly investigating. But this spotlight, while an important line of questioning into last year’s interference, overshadows other steps that Congress is taking to prevent Russian meddling in future elections. Absent an administration that is staffed up or a president inclined to go hard on Moscow, Congress is looking to define its own strategy. “We don’t really have a Russia strategy” to prevent a repeat of election meddling, says James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Congress is trying to figure out what that should be.” Specifically, it’s looking at several areas: sanctions, what exactly Russia did in the last election and appropriate countermeasures, and US digital defenses.
… Sen. Mike Rounds (R) of South Dakota is heading up a new Senate Armed Services committee panel that will examine how the Defense Department responds to digital tumult – and what level of attack constitutes cyber warfare. The US is still establishing a system to coordinate how and when government agencies respond to digital attacks that don’t cause physical damage or death.
After last year’s election campaign, then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson labeled election infrastructure as critical infrastructure. That would allow US government funding to go to protecting vote tabulation systems, voter registration databases, and voting machines from digital attack – though this raises federal-state questions.
Indeed, Sen. Chris Coons (D) of Delaware, says there is “not the bipartisan will there yet” to strengthen the infrastructure of voting at the state and local level and invest in a new generation of voting machines.