Senate Intel releases bipartisan report into Russian election interference, no votes altered remains

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After a two-year probe, the Senate Intelligence Committee just released a report on Russian election interference which concluded that although there was “unprecedented” activity, the intentions “remain unclear.”

The Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, released 67 pages of an unclassified but mostly redacted portion of the report on Thursday, offering some new details from the probe into Russia’s cyber activity against election systems in the U.S.

But, much like a preliminary finding on election security released in May of 2018, Thursday’s installment found that although U.S. election infrastructure was targeted by Moscow ahead of the 2016 presidential election, no voting machines were manipulated and no votes were changed.

“Russia might have intended to exploit vulnerabilities in election infrastructure during the 2016 elections and, for unknown reasons, decided not to execute those options,” the committee wrote in the report.

“Alternatively, Russia might have sought to gather information in the conduct of traditional espionage activities” or may have sought to “catalog” options or any potential secret operations in the future, the report said.

State and local officials were “not sufficiently warned or prepared” about any form of attacks by a foreign government at the time, as the report found that from 2014 through 2017, the Russian government “directed extensive activity” against U.S. elections systems.

Warnings to states in the summer of 2016 from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI “did not provide enough information or go to the right people,” the Senate panel concluded, noting however that since then, the government agencies have “evolved significantly” in the area.

“I hope the bipartisan findings and recommendations outlined in this report will underscore to the White House and all of our colleagues, regardless of political party, that this threat remains urgent, and we have a responsibility to defend our democracy against it,” Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s vice chairman, said.

Democrats continue to press the claims that Russians are still attacking America’s systems, and former counsel Robert Mueller testified as much during his appearance before Congressional panels on Wednesday.

“It wasn’t a single attempt,” Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee. “They’re doing it as we sit here.”

Not all Democrats were on board with the released report and its state and agency recommendations.

“I cannot support a report whose top recommendation is to ‘reinforce state’s privacy in running elections.'”  Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote in the report.

“We would not ask a local sheriff to go to war against the missiles, planes and tanks of the Russian Army,” he added. “We shouldn’t ask a county election IT employee to fight a war against the full capabilities and vast resources of Russia’s cyber army. That approach failed in 2016 and it will fail again.”

Election security bills were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday as “partisan legislation.”

“Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly, something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent,” McConnell said, prompting an outcry from Democrats.


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