Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Trump criticized for not leading effort to secure elections

By DEB RIECHMANN

WASHINGTON (AP) — As alarms blare about Russian interference in U.S. elections, the Trump administration is facing criticism that it has no clear national strategy to protect the country during the upcoming midterms and beyond.

Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the administration’s response as fragmented, without enough coordination across federal agencies. And with the midterms just three months away, critics are calling on President Donald Trump to take a stronger stand on an issue critical to American democracy.

“There’s clearly not enough leadership from the top. This is a moment to move,” said Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “I don’t think they are doing nearly enough.”

Various government agencies have been at work to ensure safe voting. The FBI has set up a Foreign Influence Task Force and intelligence agencies are collecting information on Russian aggression.

But Trump himself rarely talks about the issue. And in the nearly two years since Russians were found to have hacked into U.S. election systems and manipulated social media to influence public opinion, the White House has held two meetings on election security.

One was last week. It ran 30 minutes.

The meeting resulted in no new presidential directive to coordinate the federal effort to secure the election, said Suzanne Spaulding, former undersecretary of homeland security who was responsible for cybersecurity and protecting critical infrastructure.

“Trump’s failure to take a leadership role on this, up until this (National Security Council) meeting, misses an opportunity to send a clear message to states that this is a very serious threat,” Spaulding said. “We did not get out of this NSC meeting a comprehensive, interagency strategy. It was each department and agency working in their silos.”

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