After his win in 2016, President Donald Trump denied for quite some time that Russia had interfered in the U.S. elections that year, performing a widespread disinformation campaign that nearly every other lawmaker saw was real.
Although he later lamented that Russia did indeed meddle in our elections — revising history in doing so by saying “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” according to PolitiFact — it seems his administration is still not taking things seriously.
That’s the assessment being made by some current and past officials within the Department of Homeland Security. Those officials, speaking anonymously to The Daily Beast, cited the skimming-down of two task forces within DHS’s Cyber Security Infrastructure Agency (CISA), which were assigned to combat foreign influences on our elections, including disruptive social media campaigns that are designed to spread disinformation to the American public.
"Trump likes to criticize Obama for not doing more to stop Russia's attack on the 2016 election, but the analytic assessment from the US intelligence community is that Trump has not deterred our adversaries from trying again. They're still at it." https://t.co/5gVJiQLils
— DASS (@DemsOfState) February 12, 2019
The U.S. won’t be ready to combat the threat of more interference by the 2020 presidential campaign, and it might not just be Russia this time around that’s trying to mess up our election processes, one of the sources warned.
“We know Russia is going to be engaged,” an anonymous DHS official warned. “Other state actors have seen the success of Russia and realize the value of disinformation operations. So it’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election.”
Sara Sendek, a DHS spokeswoman, responded to criticisms by saying that “election security remains a priority” for the department. But there are troubling signs that moves are being made in the wrong direction.
One of the two task forces, for instance, has been cut in half from the size it was just a few months ago, and the anonymous DHS officials say there’s no signs given by the department that they’re planning to re-staff it.
The second task force has shrunk in size as well. Reductions in staff size in that group’s operations were done before it was able to give an assessment on its work during the 2018 midterm elections.