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McCollum: We Must Defend Our Democracy From Russian Attacks

December 12, 2016
Press Release

In a post on Medium published Monday, December 12, 2016, Congresswoman Betty McCollum called for a strong, swift and sustained response to defend our democracy from Russian attacks:

The Central Intelligence Agency has determined with “high confidence” — the intelligence community’s highest degree of certainty — that Russia launched a state-sponsored cyber attack intended to influence the presidential election to the benefit of Donald Trump.

The White House has confirmed that “the Intelligence Community made very clear that [the hacking] was activity directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”

When a foreign power launches cyber attacks, manipulates sensitive political data, and spreads fake news stories to influence who is elected President of the United States, it is tantamount to an attack on the United States.

Michael Morell, a distinguished leader at the CIA and the agency’s former acting director, said yesterday: “A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11.”

There is a clear bipartisan belief that this Russian attack demands a response. For instance, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said: “I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia. I think they did interfere in our elections and I want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally to pay a price.”

I urge President Barack Obama to respond against Russia proportionally, forcefully, and unequivocally. The United States must show President Putin and the world that tampering with an American election will be considered an attack on the American people.

For example, President Obama could immediately recall the U.S. ambassador to Moscow and expel Russia’s ambassador to the United States. In light of his government’s actions, allowing Russia’s ambassador to remain in Washington is intolerable. He should be considered persona non grata.

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump and his advisors appear not to take these Russian acts of aggression seriously. As a candidate, Mr. Trump repeatedly expressed concerns that the election would be “rigged” against him. Faced with the best American intelligence that the Russian government worked to rig the election, Mr. Trump has chosen to castigate the work of intelligence professionals who put their lives on the line to defend the United States.

The American people deserve a full public discussion of Russia’s actions — an undertaking that requires a bipartisan Congressional investigation. I strongly support the establishment of a select committee, made up of Republicans and Democrats, to fully investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy and to conduct public hearings on this issue. A Congressional investigation will also help ensure that the federal government develops a strategy to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future.

I take my responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States very seriously. That most certainly includes preventing foreign enemies from undermining the legitimacy of our country’s democratic election process.

This Russian attack on our democracy demands a strong, swift, and sustained response by the White House and the Congress. With the future of our democracy at stake, I will do everything in my power to protect the freedom we enjoy as Americans.