The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing today underscored- yet again- that there is no doubt Russia attacked our election under the direct order of Vladimir Putin to help elect Donald Trump. To that end, President Trump has refused to do anything to hold Russia accountable which is both dangerous and a “dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country.” Experts are in agreement that Trump’s failure to act leaves the United States vulnerable to attack again in future elections.
Here are six must-see moments from today’s hearing:
WATCH: No doubt Russia attacked our election
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS: There is no doubt about Russia’s systematic campaign to undermine our 2016 presidential election, the Montenegrin, Dutch, French and German elections this year. And Russia’s seeking to diminish the confidence that the citizens of all these countries have in their democracies.
WATCH: It would be a mistake for Trump to weaken or veto sanctions on Russia
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS: I hope the House of Representatives will back, and not dilute, in this sense the very strong Senate sanctions bill against Moscow that you passed by a 97-2 margin two weeks ago. In my view, it would be a great mistake for President Trump to veto such a bill. And with our long national two-century debate about the separation of powers in mind, I do think that Congress, it’s time for the Congress, and not the President, to lead the American response to Russia’s cyberattack on the United States. The President has shown that he’s unwilling to act against Russia. And that is why the Congressional Review provision in your Senate bill makes eminent sense so that the administration cannot ease or lift the sanctions on Russia until Putin’s attacks on our democratic elections have ceased, and until he’s met the provisions of the two Minsk agreements on Ukraine and Crimea.
WATCH: If Trump continues to refuse to hold Russia accountable it will be a dereliction of his duty to defend this country
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS: It is his duty, President Trump’s, to be skeptical of Russia. It is his duty to investigate and defend our country against cyber-offensives, because Russia’s our most dangerous adversary in the world today. And if he continues to refuse to act, it’s a dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country.
WATCH: Expert panel unanimously agreed Putin ordered the attack on our election
SENATOR RICHARD BURR: Do you have any doubt that Russian interference is driven by Putin himself? I’ll start with you Ambassador Burns.
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS: No doubt about it.
DIRECTOR JANIS SARTS: The same answer: no doubt.
AMBASSADOR VESKO GARCEVIC: No doubt.
CONSTANZE STELZENMUELLER: None.
WATCH: Europeans don’t see Trump and the United States as the leader against Russia anymore because Trump has not been strong on sanctions and hostile to NATO
SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS: Ambassador Burns, can you tell me what you believe has been the impact of our reputation, with our allies in Europe in particular, as a result of this administration’s failure to acknowledge that Russia hacked and attempted to manipulate the election of the President of the United States, and if you believe there has been an impact in terms of our standing with our allies in Europe? Do you believe that is going to have an impact on our ability to protect ourselves and guard against what should be a predictable attack on our 2018 elections by Russia?
AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you, Senator. I think the basic problem is that the Europeans are accustomed to looking toward the United States to lead on any big issue. This is a big issue and the hearing is central to it, because all of are under attack from a systematic Russian campaign. But they don’t see the United States leading. And if you combine – and this is partly in in response to Senator Cotton’s very good question as well – President Trump has not been strong on the sanctions against Ukraine. He’s not been an advocate for the territorial independence of Ukraine. He’s not spoken out on interference and he’s been very ambivalent, even hostile, to NATO, and seems to look at Germany as a strategic economic competitor, not as an ally. If you put all that together, I think that’s the first time since 1945 that Europeans might likely see Angela Merkel right now as leader of the West, not President Trump. I don’t say that lightly, and I think it’s a sad statement to make, but I think it’s a true statement. So we need to recover our leadership role and you do that by actions.
WATCH: Expect Russia to deploy more sophisticated and elaborate attacks on our upcoming elections
SENATOR JACK REED: From your perspective, are the Russians working on, already working on in our case the ’16 campaign or the ’18 campaign in the United States, are they going to deploy more sophisticated cyber operations against our registration and electoral systems? There’s been some reports in Great Britain in context of the Brexit vote that there was an attack on registration systems. And I guess the biggest question of them all is are they already there and we don’t know it because of the ability to use some tools that have fallen into their hands? So if you could.
DIRECTOR JANIS SARTS: One thing that we’ve registered: Russians do experimentation. Sometimes you see an odd pattern that is inconsequential in a given circumstances and you kind of dismiss it because it has no effect. But when you look forward, or retrospectively when you’ve seen these cases, you see that has been the test case for a particular tool. So, they’re doing it right now. It’s not necessarily that they test it in the theatre they’re going to deploy it. It might be a very different place. So yes, there will be more elaborate tools both from technical but also from a cognitive perspective. I would expect there’ll be more. But I think the choices whether to and how to do that would be made pretty close within the contextual circumstances of a moment.