Robert Mueller may have placed a special emphasis on election security following the release of his investigation report, but lawmakers questioning the former special counsel this week will spend little time, if any, on the topic.
Mueller will be testifying before both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees on Wednesday, discussing the findings in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. But despite his previous contention that election security is an issue that “deserves the attention of every American,” it seems members of the House Intelligence Committee will not be giving the issue much attention, according to The Hill.
“I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our elections,” Mueller said in a press conference in May after the release of his 448-page report. “That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”
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The report’s first volume focused on the efforts by Russians to undermine the 2016 US election, including the hacking into the Democratic National Committee computer system and using social media to reportedly spread disinformation that favored Trump.
According to The Hill:
In the wake of the report’s release, election security debates ramped up on Capitol Hill, with Republicans and Democrats strongly disagreeing on what steps, if any, Congress should take ahead of the 2020 elections.
The Democratic-led House has passed several election security bills, while the GOP-controlled Senate has mostly avoided voting on them and others, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) citing concerns about federalizing elections and claiming agencies already doing enough to address the problem.
Chairman Adam Schiff is planning an “open election security hearing with relevant public officials following the August recess,” according to a House Intelligence Committee spokesperson who declined to comment on whether Schiff would address questions on election security with Mueller.
Rep. Val Demings, a Florida Democrat who is a member of both committees, told The Hill she “really wished we had time” to discuss election security which became a hot topic on Capitol Hill following the release of Mueller’s report.
But it seems Democrats will be more focused “specifically on his investigation and his report, more about meetings the Trump campaign or the administration had with Russian officials, the president obstructing justice, and the conclusions about not exonerating the president,” she said.
Rep. Cedric Richmond is a member of both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Homeland Security cybersecurity subcommittee, which he chairs. But the Louisiana Democrat found no reason to pursue election security questions with Mueller, telling The Hill that “that part of the report is sufficiently detailed.”
Rep. Mike Quigley expressed his disappointment with the multitude of questions to ask and the limited time members are allotted to address them in questioning Mueller. He hoped to hear more about the 2016 Russian hacking and social media interference during Wednesday’s hearing.
“The first time, and the only time that Mueller spoke to the American public, eight minutes, people forget that half of it, he was talking about election security,” the Illinois Democrat told The Hill. “I think the most important thing he can do is to reiterate and expound upon that, what the threat was, why the threat is still there, and why we need a bipartisan response.”
“He needs to reinforce the message that he made at his press conference, that the Russians attacked our democracy in 2018. They’ll be back,” Virginia Democrat Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said.
Republicans hope that if questions won’t be asked of Mueller directly about election security, that he will address them himself, and even offer advice to Congress on how to better secure the U.S. election system.
Judiciary Committee member and Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko noted her wish for the panel to “focus more on the actual interference in our elections by the Russians instead of going after the Trump administration constantly.”