WASHINGTON – House Democratic leaders criticized congressional Republicans for not doing enough to prevent Russian interference in the upcoming midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, said the full committee did not hold any hearings last year focused on protecting America’s election infrastructure.
“The next election, which is upon us within a year, there’s potential Russian actors who will be moving – but also there’s a 2020 election upon us and, up to this point, there’s nothing that’s gone forward with it,” Thompson said during a press conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) accused congressional Republicans of “abdicating their oversight responsibility and trying to undermine” special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“Why else would the majority ignore the 40 oversight letters we have written?” Nadler asked. “Why else would the White House counsel have worked so hard to prevent the attorney general from recusing himself from the investigation, as we learned last week?”
The Associated Press reported that President Trump urged White House Counsel Don McGahn to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Russia probe, as Sessions did in March.
Nadler agreed with Thompson that the GOP has not worked to prevent foreign interference in the next election.
“The continued failure of the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to act to protect the integrity of our future elections starting this year from hacking and attacks by the Russians or anyone else is a disgrace and a disservice to the Constitution and to the American people,” he said.
House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has called for the impeachment of Trump, said committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) did not reply to her request last year to investigate potential financial ties between Trump and Deutsche Bank, which is reportedly a subject of Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said there should be a full House committee hearing on how to prevent election interference.
“They seem to be have forgotten or can’t find the subpoena pen anymore. They seem to have forgotten how to have a hearing on arguably the most important existential issue facing the United States – the active interference of Russia in our electoral process. Not a single hearing at the full committee level – no interest,” Connolly said.
“So we are here today to call upon our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, stand up for your country. This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about protecting our beloved country and everybody needs to be counted, and it’s not about partisan gain. It is about protecting the interests of the American electorate,” he added.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) shared the same view as Connolly.
“A year has gone by and nothing has been done to Russia to stop it from doing this again, and we know the Russians are trying,” he said, adding U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman “confirmed it.”
“It doesn’t matter to me whether they tried to help Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The fact of the matter is, I don’t want the Russians interfering in our democracy and no American representative should,” Engel said. “And the House of Representatives has been silent, and that’s not acceptable to anybody.”
Engel has introduced the Secure Our Democracy Act, which he said would “go even further” than last year’s sanctions against Russia.
“We should move that bill or we should find some other way to prevent another scenario like what we saw in 2016,” he said. “The clock is ticking and Russia is coming for us again.”
Democratic leaders sent a letter on Tuesday to House Speaker Paul Ryan demanding more action to safeguard the next election.
“Russia’s aggression towards the United States and the Trump Administration’s efforts to cover up its communications with the Russians demand an immediate, whole-of-government response,” the letter read.
“Yet, Republican House leaders and Committee Chairmen have blocked, stonewalled, and rejected our basic requests to investigate, hold public hearings, and advance legislation to address these matters. House Republicans have chosen to put President Trump ahead of our national interests,” the letter added.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she hopes Ryan responds to the Democrats’ inquiry in a timely manner.
“I have no doubt that if the Democrats were in power we would have taken action to protect our electoral system,” she said. “I have no doubt if the Democrats were in power the Republicans would be urging that action. But that’s not what they are doing, and as Congresswoman Waters said, for some reason, they are protecting the president and we want to know – we just want to get the facts.”