Intelligence agencies are accusing Russia of conducting a “broad covert operation” in the United States to “sow public distrust” in the integrity of upcoming elections only weeks after President Obama claimed “the elections will not be rigged.”
A campaign by the Russian government to directly influence public opinion towards the presidential election “is something we’re looking very closely at,” said one senior intelligence official who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.
Officials also claim Russia may disrupt the election process directly, and the FBI has alerted state and local officials to be prepared for potential cyberthreats.
However, it was only a few weeks ago when Obama claimed rigged elections won’t happen while responding to Donald Trump’s accusation that the election will be rigged against him.
“Of course the elections will not be rigged,” he said Aug. 4. “What does that mean?”
“If Mr. Trump is suggesting that there is a conspiracy theory that is being propagated across the country, including in places like Texas where typically it’s not Democrats who are in charge of voting booths, that’s ridiculous.”
“That doesn’t make any sense and I don’t think anybody would take that seriously,” Obama added.
But it appears it’s actually the White House that’s pushing a conspiracy theory; the intelligence official said they have “no definitive proof” of Russia tampering with the coming elections.
Additionally, the Washington Post refers to the “Russian government hack” of the Democratic National Committee back in June, yet in the same sentence notes the hack has not yet been “officially ascribed by the U.S. government to Russia.”
“We’ve seen an unprecedented intrusion and an attempt to influence or disrupt our political process,” said Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), apparently angry the leaked emails revealed collusion at the highest levels of the Democratic National Committee to steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has demanded President Obama publicly declare Russia responsible for the DNC hack and meddling in the electoral process.
“Free and legitimate elections are non-negotiable. It’s clear that Russia thinks the reward outweighs any consequences,” he said. “That calculation must be changed…. This is going to take a cross-domain response — diplomatic, political and economic — that turns the screws on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his cronies.”
Sasse’s hope for the United States to “turn the screws” on Putin, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s recent comments suggesting the United States respond to cyberattacks with military force, are deeply concerning, especially when the intelligence community itself has not publicly declared Russia responsible for the hacks.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has also indicated a plan to assume direct control of the Presidential election by declaring it “critical infrastructure,” giving DHS control similar to what it has over Wall Street and the electric power grid.
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