Trump puts fight over election security in a whole new context

 msnbc.com  06/13/2019 12:42:04   Steve Benen

Soon after Donald Trump said he’d accept foreign assistance in his re-election campaign, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded to the president in a specific and notable way.

Disgraceful yet sadly par for the course for this president.

When the president talks like this, it’s no wonder [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] is blocking bipartisan efforts to secure our elections from foreign interference.

I think this was more than a throwaway line. There’s an ongoing debate on Capitol Hill about legislative efforts to prevent foreign interference in our elections, and the president just put that debate in a whole new context.

Three years after the Republicans Senate leader balked at an effort to confront Russia’s election attack, Mitch McConnell has effectively imposed a blockade against all proposals intend to protect the U.S. system against future foreign attacks.

Indeed, as we discussed the other day, the list of proposals – many of which enjoy bipartisan backing – is not short. The New York Times reported:

The bills include a Democratic measure that would send more than $1 billion to state and local governments to tighten election security, but would also demand a national strategy to protect American democratic institutions against cyberattacks and require that states spend federal funds only on federally certified election infrastructure vendors. A bipartisan measure in both chambers would require internet companies like Facebook to disclose the purchasers of political ads.

Another bipartisan Senate proposal would codify cyberinformation-sharing initiatives between federal intelligence services and state election officials, speed up the granting of security clearances to state officials and provide federal incentives for states to adopt paper ballots.

McConnell won’t allow his chamber to consider any of these measures. But has Trump changed the calculus?

It’s one thing to ignore election-security as an issue three years after an attack; it’s something else to ignore the issue after a sitting president invites a new round of foreign interference.

As a rule, the Kentucky Republican is indifferent to pressure, confident that the Republican base, its allies, and voters in his ruby-red state won’t care. Odds are, McConnell will continue to shrug his shoulders, invite condemnations, and leave our political system vulnerable.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. If Trump’s ridiculous new posture sparks a backlash, and some GOP senators – perhaps those concerned about their re-election prospects in 2020 – demand action on election-security legislation, McConnell may feel the need to deal with an issue he sees as a distraction.

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