In Russia probe, Senate panel urges stronger election security

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Issuing the first report in the review of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that a range of stepped up election security measures must be taken by local, state, and federal officials to address a series of gaps, which lawmakers in both parties say Moscow was obviously trying to exploit.

“It is clear the Russian government was looking for the vulnerabilities in our election system,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the Intelligence panel, which has been working for over a year to uncoil what cyber attacks Moscow was engaging in during the 2016 campaign for President.

“Russia attempted to penetrate 21 states; we know they were successful in penetrating at least one voter database,” Burr added at a bipartisan news conference on Capitol Hill.

The panel issued a two page summary of what Senators say should be changed, ranging from giving grants to states to help secure their election systems, and pushing states to replaced outdated voting machines, and ensure that such vote counting equipment is not connected to the internet.

While Burr again stressed that there was “no evidence that any vote was changed,” he made clear that the bottom line of the investigation shows Russia was a bad actor in 2016.

“Russia was trying to undermine the confidence in our election system,” Burr added.

“The Russians were relentless in trying to meddle in the 2016 elections,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), as she said Senators in both parties agree that Moscow is trying to do the same thing in 2018 in the United States, and in other Western democracies as well.

“We may never know the full extent of the Russian malicious attacks,” Collins added.

One idea suggested by committee members is for states to go back to paper ballots in the future, to insure that overseas actors can’t hack their way into the voting process.

The panel will hold a hearing on Wednesday to go over these findings and recommendations related to election security, as Burr and other Senators stressed that their overall review of Russia’s 2016 election meddling continues.

The news conference demonstrated the difference between the investigations into Russian interference in the House and Senate, as Senators of both parties joined together, while over in the House, the two sides have been issuing dueling memos and reports.

Meanwhile, there were strong public signals of support from top Republicans for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in the wake of attacks by the President earlier this week on the former FBI Director.

“Bob Mueller should be allowed to finish his job,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think it was an excellent appointment.”

“I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches a conclusion,” McConnell added.

Down at the White House, it was a different tone about Mueller, as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders again said the President was right to call for the Russia probe to end, but said there are no plans to get rid of the former FBI Director.

“We have not been shy about the fact that there is frustration about this process,” Sanders told reporters. “We would like it to end quickly and soon.”