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Democrats accuse Trump of ignoring 'grave' national security threat from Russia

Democrats accuse Trump of ignoring 'grave' national security threat from Russia
From CBC - January 10, 2018

A new report by Senate Democrats warns of deepening Russian interference throughout Europe and concludes that even as some Western democracies have responded with aggressive countermeasures, President Donald Trump has offered no strategic plan to bolster their efforts or safeguard the U.S. from again falling victim to the Kremlin's systematic meddling.

The report commissioned by the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee is the first from Congress to comprehensively detail Russian efforts to undermine democracies since the 2016 presidential election. It wastes no time in calling out Trump personally for what it describes as a failure to respond to Russia's mounting destabilization activities in the U.S. and worldwide.

"Never before has a U.S. president so clearly ignored such a grave and growing threat to U.S. national security," the report warns.

No Republicans on the committee signed on to the 200-plus page report released by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland. But even without GOP backing, the report's recounting of Russian operations in 19 European nations foreshadows the still-unpublished Senate intelligence committee's bipartisan inquiry into Russia's role during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Cardin said in a statement that he commissioned the report so Americans can see the "true scope and scale" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to undermine democracy.

"While President Trump stands practically idle, Mr. Putin continues to refine his asymmetric arsenal and look for future opportunities to disrupt governance and erode support for the democratic and international institutions that the United States and Europe have built over the last 70 years," Cardin said.

Cardin's inquiry lays blame directly on Putin for a "relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States."

Critical of State Department

Concerned that Trump has failed to identify Russian aggression as a national rallying point, the report urges a "stronger congressional voice" in pro-democracy efforts and funding. The report calls for committee hearings and other bipartisan efforts to aid European nations in countering Russian aggression.

Some policy changes suggested by the report have garnered GOP interest, including the aggressive use of financial sanctions aimed at Russia and pressuring social media companies to be more transparent about Russian political messaging.

The report also pushes for the administration to fully fund and utilize the State Department's Global Engagement Center, which it says is hobbled by "a lack of urgency and self-imposed constraints" under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The centre was created in 2016 to blunt terrorist propaganda. It duties have expanded to include countering Russian propaganda under legislation last year from Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Cardin's report sketches a bleak portrait of European nations besieged by Russian encroachment. It also cites years of cyberattacks, disinformation, clandestine social media operations, financing of fringe political groups, corruption and in the extreme, assassination attempts and military operations that destabilized fledgling democratic governments in the Ukraine and Georgia.

The report leans heavily on open source information as well as staff interviews with European diplomats and government officials.

Report cites European interference

Trump says he believes Putin

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