- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday said Russia attacked the U.S. electoral process in 2016, will try again and should face more sanctions, taking a harder public line than President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Mr. Kushner, a senior White House adviser, appeared to dismiss the meddling last week as a “couple of Facebook ads.”

But the South Carolina Republican, one of the president’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, said the problem is far more serious, noting that Russians hacked Democratic Party operatives and should face stiff consequences.

“I like Jared a lot, but he’s leaving out a big detail,” Mr. Graham told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Can you imagine what we would be saying if the Russians or the Iranians hacked into the presidential team of the Republican Party?”

The senator said there’s no reason to believe Russia will let up, so pushback is needed.

“We need more sanctions, not less,” Mr. Graham said. “Before 2020 — because clearly they have not heard the message.”

Members of both parties are sounding the alarm about election security, after special counsel Robert Mueller detailed efforts by Russian meddlers to leverage social media and steal emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in mid-2016, to damage the Democrat’s chances.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said the White House should support a bipartisan bill that forces the Department of Homeland Security to share data on cyberthreats with state election officials and encourages states to use paper ballots as a backup to digital machines.

The bill has stalled amid some state objections and pushback from the administration, which has concerns about shifting too much power to the federal government.

“They won’t even pass the bipartisan bill for backup paper ballots,” Ms. Klobuchar told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That would be a big help … to ensure that, if one state goes bad, or one county is invaded, that we’re able to have a successful 2020 election, where we actually have the American people voting, and not the Russians determining what happened.”

Mr. Trump, who consistently pushes back against any narrative that calls into question the legitimacy of his 2016 win, has been reluctant to acknowledge the full extent of Russian intrusion into the election.

The president says he crafted one of the best political messages of all time in pushing to Make America Great Again, and that’s what resonated with voters.

Lawmakers in both parties, however, are worried that Russians will try to tilt the outcome again in 2020 instead of allowing a fair fight between Mr. Trump and whoever emerges from a crowded Democratic primary field.

They also want those on Mr. Trump’s team to take a harder line on interference.

The president gushed over Mr. Kushner’s interview at the Time 100 Summit, during which the president’s son-in-law said probes into the Trump campaign were more disruptive than social media efforts carried out by Russian actors.

“You look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing. But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads,” said Mr. Kushner, who is married to Mr. Trump’s elder daughter, Ivanka. “If you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country.”

Mr. Mueller refers to the social media campaign and hacking operation on the first page of his 448-page report.

While his team didn’t find a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, Mr. Graham said Russian actions were a big deal.

“It’s not just a few Facebook ads,” he said. “They were very successful in pitting one American against the other during the 2016 campaign by manipulating social media, and they actually got into the campaign email system of the Democratic Party.”

“An attack on one party,” he added, “should be an attack on all.”

Ms. Klobuchar said Russian meddlers even appeared to access voter rolls in Florida, so the threat is tangible.

“Maybe Russia didn’t use tanks, maybe they didn’t use missiles, but they invaded our democracy all the same,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “They did it by meddling, and not just meddling, but actually invading our democracy.”

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