UPDATED: Despite His Claims To The Contrary, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Is Blocking Election Security Legislation – Part of A Longstanding Refusal To Stand Up to Russian Election Interference

July 29, 2019

DECEMBER 2016: THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTS THAT MCCONNELL CHALLENGED EFFORT TO ALERT PUBLIC TO THREAT OF RUSSIAN ELECTION HACKING

“In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.” … “According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics. Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.” [Washington Post, 12/9/16]

MAY 2017: MCCONNELL DEFENDS TRUMP DECISION TO FIRE COMEY AND REJECTS CALLS FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR

The Hill: McConnell Defends Trump Decision To Fire Comey. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday morning defended President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.” [The Hill, 5/10/17]

Politico: McConnell Rejects Calls For Special Prosecutor. “After a flurry of GOP statements Tuesday night criticizing Trump for axing Comey so suddenly, there were no new Republican calls on Wednesday for a special prosecutor or select committee to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections or possible collusion with the Trump campaign. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Wednesday forcefully rejected calls for an independent prosecutor or commission.” [Politico, 5/10/17]

MARCH 2018: TOP OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL CONFIRMS MCCONNELL EFFORTS TO “WATER DOWN” PUTIN ELECTION HACKING WARNING. 

Washington Post: Former Obama Chief Of Staff Said Top Senate Republican ‘Watered Down’ Pre-Election Russia Warning. “A former chief of staff to President Barack Obama said Sunday that the Senate’s top Republican insisted that a bipartisan appeal for states to step up election security in the face of Russian aggression be ‘dramatically watered down’ before it was issued in advance of the 2016 election. Denis McDonough said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was single-handedly responsible for downgrading the language in a letter “asking the states to work with us” to better secure election systems in light of intelligence indicating Russia was attempting to interfere in the election. McDonough complained that members of Congress have shown a ‘stunning lack of urgency about this question,’ and he put the blame mostly on Republican leaders in Congress. ‘The lack of urgency that we saw from the Republican leadership in 2016, we continue to see to this day today,’ he said. ‘It’s beyond time for Congress to work with the administration, to work with the states, to ensure that our electoral systems are ready to go. This is not a game.’” [Washington Post, 3/4/18]

JULY 2018:  SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK RESOLUTIONS ACKNOWLEDGING PUTIN’S ELECTION INTERFERENCE

NY Times: Republicans Block Anti-Putin Resolutions Before Senate Approves One Rebuke “In the Senate, Republicans objected to two nonbinding measures that would have put the body on record as being in support of intelligence agency conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, called on Mr. Trump to fully impose sanctions against Russia and pressed for oversight of the summit meeting, including the production of any notes taken by Americans.” [New York Times, 7/19/18]

AUGUST 2018: SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK $250 BILLION IN ADDITIONAL ELECTION SECURITY FUNDING

USA Today: Republicans Block $250 Million To Beef Up Election Security. “Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic push Wednesday that would have provided $250 million to beef up election security. The money would have been doled out in grants through the Federal Election Assistance Commission and helped, among other things, replace outdated voting equipment and increase cybersecurity efforts.” [USA Today, 8/1/18]

SEPTEMBER 2018: REPUBLICAN SENATORS SAY SEN. MCCONNELL IS BLOCKING ELECTION SECURITY LEGISLATION

Inside Cyber Security: Sen. Blunt Says Secure Elections Act Vote Isn't On Majority Leader McConnell’s Priority List For Fall: “Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) said this week that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is unlikely to push for getting the Secure Elections Act through the Rules panel and to a Senate floor vote prior to election day, although Blunt said he is still hoping to ‘memorialize’ election security in law. ‘I think the leader [McConnell] does not share my sense that we need to pass a bill right now, so we need to get to a point where if we're going to get a bill out of our committee, it would have the opportunity to get voted on, otherwise we need to keep working,’ Blunt told Inside Cybersecurity on Tuesday.” [Inside Cyber Security via Lexis, 9/25/18]

Associated Press: Election Security Bill Backers Say Delay Helps Russia. “Just two months before the midterm elections, bipartisan legislation to try to prevent foreign hacking into U.S. election systems is stalled in Congress as the White House and some Republicans worry it could exert too much federal control over the states.” … “The bill was negotiated over the last year by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Lankford says the White House did not block the bill, but that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ‘had concerns’ after hearing from states and other interests that suddenly realized the bill was moving forward. Klobuchar similarly said concerns came from ‘leadership on the Republican side.’” [AP, 9/4/18]

NOVEMBER 2018: MCCONNELL, SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK VOTE ON BILL TO PROTECT MUELLER FROM INTERFERENCE. 

NBC News: McConnell, Senate Republicans Block Vote On 'Mueller Protection Bill.' “Senate Republicans blocked a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday, despite a threat from a GOP senator to hold up judicial nominees until action is taken on the measure.” [NBC, 11/28/18]

JANUARY 2019: REPUBLICANS BLOCK EFFORT CONDEMNING ADMINISTRATION FOR RELAXING RUSSIA SANCTIONS

Politico: GOP blocks Senate rebuke of Trump on Russia sanctions. “A bipartisan attempt to condemn the Trump administration for relaxing Russia sanctions stalled in the Senate Wednesday after Republicans banded together to block the effort. The bill would have formally rebuked the administration before it moves ahead with plans to lift sanctions on companies linked to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” [Politico, 1/16/19]

MARCH 2019: MCCONNELL, SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK EFFORTS TO MAKE FULL MUELLER REPORT PUBLIC

The Hill: McConnell blocks resolution calling for Mueller report to be released publicly. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday blocked a resolution calling for special counsel Robert Mueller's report to be released publicly.  Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked for unanimous consent for the nonbinding resolution, which cleared the House 420-0, to be passed by the Senate following Mueller's submission of his final report on Friday.  ‘Whether or not you're a supporter of President Trump ... there is no good reason not to make the report public,’ Schumer said from the floor. ‘It's a simple request for transparency. Nothing more, nothing less.’” [The Hill, 3/25/19]

APRIL 2019: REPUBLICAN SENATOR CONFIRMS SEN. MCCONNELL REFUSES TO BRING ELECTION SECURITY BILL TO THE FLOOR, CREATING DELAY IN COMMITTEE

McClatchy: Divided Congress Can’t Agree On Fix For ‘Dangerous’ Russian Election Meddling. “Despite clear and compelling evidence of a Russian plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, partisanship has all but killed any chance that Congress will pass legislation to shore up election security before voters cast their ballots next year.” … “David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said he could provide ‘no guidance’ on whether an election security bill authored by Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma might be able to gain traction in the Senate. But Blunt said McConnell will not even bring a GOP-led election bill to the floor for fear Democrats might try to amend it.” … “Given McConnell’s opposition, however, Blunt told The Star he does not plan to take up Lankford and Klobuchar’s bill in the Rules Committee for hearings or a vote. ‘I don’t see any reason in this case to mark up a bill that can’t possibly be voted on on the floor,’ he said.” [McClatchy, 4/10/19]

MAY 2019: RULES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN AND MEMBER OF MCCONNELL LEADERSHIP TEAM CONFIRMS MCCONNELL BLOCKING ELECTION SECURITY LEGISLATION

DURBIN: There’s a number of bills that are pending before congress, I think some of them before this committee, on the subject of election integrity. Mr. Chairman, I wasn’t here at the beginning – are we going to be marking up any of those bills on election security?

BLUNT: It was not a topic of discussion today but at this point I don’t see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we marked them up.

DURBIN: Why?

BLUNT: Same reason we couldn’t get our bill to the floor last year.

DURBIN: Which is?

BLUNT: I think the majority leader just is of the view that this debate reaches no conclusion and frankly I think the extreme nature of HB1 – of HR1 from the House even makes it less likely that we’re going to have that debate. [Senate Rules Committee Hearing, 5/15/19]

JUNE 2019: MCCONNELL DOWNPLAYS TRUMP STATEMENT THAT HE WOULD ACCEPT HELP FROM FOREIGN POWER – REPUBLICANS BLOCK BILL TO REQUIRE CAMPAIGNS NOTIFY FBI IF CONTACTED BY FOREIGN POWER

Politico: McConnell downplays Trump's foreign election help comments. “President Donald Trump's comments on accepting foreign dirt in 2020 may have put some distance between him and Republicans in Congress. But seemingly not with Mitch McConnell. Speaking with Fox News' Laura Ingraham on Thursday night, the Senate majority leader spoke with exasperation over the backlash the president has received for saying he would hear out foreign assistance if offered in the 2020 election. McConnell portrayed the comments as a non-story, saying Congress had legislative agendas to focus on. ‘They just can't let it go, Laura,’ McConnell said. ‘I said weeks ago, case closed. We got the Mueller report, the only objective evaluation that will be conducted.’” [Politico, 6/13/19]

The Daily Beast: Trump Welcomes Foreign Election Interference—but McConnell Makes It More Likely. “On Thursday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) objected to quick consideration of a bill championed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) that would have required campaigns to notify federal authorities if they are contacted by foreign entities. The freshman Republican claimed that the reporting requirements in the bill were onerous. ‘It would apply to door-knockers, it would apply to phone bankers, down to any person who shares their views with a candidate,’ said Blackburn, who raised the prospect that the bill could even spell trouble for Dreamers, the undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children. Few bought the argument, least of all Warner who said that his bill would only apply to activities that are already illegal. But the dust-up nevertheless illustrated, yet again, that the biggest impediment to applying more safeguards to foreign interference in elections may not come from Trump himself, but from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).” [The Daily Beast, 6/14/19]

WSJ: “On Tuesday, Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) blocked Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) from bringing to the floor a measure identical to the House bill on election security.” [WSJ, 7/1/19]

JULY 2019: MCCONNELL AGAIN DOWNPLAYS THREAT TO OUR ELECTIONS. 

Politico: “Calls for election security legislation have met with skepticism from Senate Republican leadership. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has noted that there was an ‘absence of problems in the 2018 election’ and views further federal legislation as unnecessary.” [Politico, 7/8/19]

JULY 2019: SENATOR MCCONNELL BLOCKS TWO ELECTION SECURITY BILLS

CBS News: Mitch Mcconnell Blocks Election Security Legislation. “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 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.’” [CBS News, 7/26/19]

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