Senators say Kremlin-backed group targeted African Americans in 2016
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a report Tuesday calling on the Trump administration to take steps to combat foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. elections.
The bipartisan recommendation was part of the committee’s new report detailing Russia’s attempts to use social media to sway the 2016 presidential election. The warning comes as President Donald Trump is the subject of an impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House over allegations that he has improperly urged other foreign governments to meddle in the 2020 presidential election.
“The Committee recommends that the Executive Branch should, in the run up to the 2020 election, reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election,” says the report, which was released jointly by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.).
The report is the second volume of the committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Burr and Warner released the first volume of their investigation in July. The two senators have stressed the importance of maintaining a bipartisan investigation even as the subject of election interference has become politically charged on Capitol Hill.
The report issued Tuesday found that the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA) sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and while supporting Trump.
The senators also concluded that the effort was “part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society.”
No single group of Americans was targeted by IRA information operatives more than African Americans, the committee found. “By far, race and related issues were the preferred target of the information warfare campaign designed to divide the country in 2016,” the report says.
Burr said in a statement Tuesday, “Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election. Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government.”
Many of the Senate’s findings were also laid out in the report issued earlier this year by former special counsel Robert Mueller, who warned lawmakers that Russians continued to interfere with U.S. elections ahead of 2020. “They’re doing it as we sit here,” Mueller said in July.
In addition to urging the executive branch to guard against foreign election interference, the senators are recommending that social media companies improve information sharing between the public and the private sector. And the senators are urging Congress to consider legislation to ensure Americans know the source behind online political advertisements.
“Now, with the 2020 elections on the horizon, there’s no doubt that bad actors will continue to try to weaponize the scale and reach of social media platforms to erode public confidence and foster chaos,” Warner said in a statement. “The Russian playbook is out in the open for other foreign and domestic adversaries to expand upon – and their techniques will only get more sophisticated.”
Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Chief of the Newsroom Network, of which NC Policy Watch is a member.