If Donald Trump did not collude with the Russian government to throw the 2016 election in his favor, he would no doubt be extremely alarmed about the definitive intelligence reports stating that the Kremlin is planning on disrupting the midterm elections this year. And yet Trump’s State Department has spent precisely none of the previous administrations allocated budget of $120 million to counter foreign attempts to interfere in US elections. Reported the New York Times today:
As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.
As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts.
The delay is just one symptom of the largely passive response to the Russian interference by President Trump, who has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow and defend democratic institutions. More broadly, the funding lag reflects a deep lack of confidence by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in his department’s ability to execute its historically wide-ranging mission and spend its money wisely.
Mr. Tillerson has voiced skepticism that the United States is even capable of doing anything to counter the Russian threat.
“If it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that,” Mr. Tillerson said in an interview last month with Fox News. “And we can take steps we can take, but this is something that once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to pre-empt it.”
Hardly reassuring words from the man tasked with protecting the country from foreign interference, but then he only has his job because his boss almost certainly colluded with Russia to win in 2016 — a fact that is now so clear it takes only the most hardened of ideologues to ignore. Continued the Times:
James K. Glassman, the under secretary for public diplomacy during the George W. Bush administration, said the center’s uncertain funding and temporary leadership reflected the administration’s lack of interest in countering either jihadist or Russian propaganda.
“They’ve got the vehicle to do this work in the center,” Mr. Glassman said. “What they don’t have is a secretary of state or a president who’s interested in doing this work.”
And one wonders why….
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.