Hours after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified Wednesday that Russians are still meddling in the U.S. political system, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the advancement of legislation to secure the nation’s election system. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith also blocked a set of bills on election security Wednesday.
In blocking the legislation pushed by Senate Democrats to provide more funding for election security, McConnell declared the effort partisan and insisted the Trump administration has already done much to secure the nation’s elections.
One bill McConnell objected to would have both required the use of paper ballots and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission. He also objected to legislation that would have required campaigns and candidates to report offers offers of election-related aid from foreign governments.
McConnell’s blocking of the legislation also comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report identifying significant vulnerabilities — like aging voting equipment, paperless machines without backups and insecurity voter registration basis — exist in the United States’ election system.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized McConnell’s decision to halt additional funding for election security ahead of 2020.
“Mueller’s testimony was a clarion call for election security,” Schumer said. “Mueller’s testimony should be a wake-up call to every American, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, that the integrity of our elections is at stake.”
Mueller was emphatic that Russians are continuing to interfere in U.S. elections, and that even more foreign countries are developing the capability to do what Russia did in 2016.
“Many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done,” the former special counsel testified.
Mr. Trump often pivots on the question of Russian election interference, and rarely admits it took place, preferring to focus on the “witch hunt” Russia investigation.
“There was no defense for this ridiculous hoax, this witch hunt that’s been going on for a long time, pretty much from the time I came down on the escalator with our first lady. And it’s a disgrace what happened,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday after Mueller’s testimony.
Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told reporters the White House doesn’t want anyone meddling in U.S. elections, but couldn’t resist throwing shade at former President Barack Obama.
“We’ll work with everyone and we would have worked with President Obama who damn well knew that the Russians were trying to interfere but didn’t talk up about it because he was convinced the other person would win,” Conway said Friday.
— CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes contributed to this report