How Obama and McConnell Handled Russian Election Interference

This is a story from December 2016 that gives some detail on what the Obama Administration tried to do in response to Russia’s election interference:

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

This is an illustration of the point I was making yesterday that Republicans are more aggressive about forwarding their own partisan interests than Democrats are, even when faced with an issue that goes to the core of our democratic process. It also illustrates the weakness of Democrats, where McConnell’s threat was apparently enough to get Obama to back off. So what if Republicans choose to politicize it? Republicans politicize every non-partisan institution that gets in their way: the FBI in the Russia investigation, the CBO during the health care debate, the Senate parliamentarian when he doesn’t rule their way, and on and on.

Some Clinton supporters saw the White House’s reluctance to act without bipartisan support as further evidence of an excessive caution in facing adversaries.

“The lack of an administration response on the Russian hacking cannot be attributed to Congress,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was at the September meeting. “The administration has all the tools it needs to respond. They have the ability to impose sanctions. They have the ability to take clandestine means. The administration has decided not to utilize them in a way that would deter the Russians, and I think that’s a problem.”

I think in 50 years, we’ll look back at the various causes that led to the national disaster unfolding today and view Obama’s timidity in the face of Russia’s actions to be a key part of where things broke down. In my view, if Obama though the right thing to do was to make Russia’s election interference public, he should have done that. If Republicans then choose to mount a partisan defense, let them and deal with it when it comes.