Week ahead: Bill to combat election meddling gets a boost

Week ahead: Bill to combat election meddling gets a boost
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A legislative effort to impose penalties on foreign nations that meddle in future U.S. elections through hacking and other means is showing signs of gaining traction in Senate.

A bipartisan pair of House lawmakers on Friday introduced a bill that would trigger retaliatory measures in response to foreign election influence efforts. It matches legislation introduced in the upper chamber by Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio: Trump's remarks on Russian election meddling 'not accurate' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Scottish beer company offering ‘tiny cans’ for Trump’s ‘tiny hands’ MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Hillicon Valley: DOJ appeals AT&T-Time Warner ruling | FBI agent testifies in heated hearing | Uproar after FCC changes rules on consumer complaints | Broadcom makes bid for another US company | Facebook under fire over conspiracy sites MORE (D-Md.) earlier this month.

The effort comes roughly one year after the U.S. intelligence community publicly blamed the Russian government for waging an influence operation during the 2016 presidential election that involved hacking into Democratic officials’ emails and spreading fake information.

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The legislation lays out penalties for Russia in the event of future influence operations, and also directs the Trump administration to come up with plans to deter similar efforts by other foreign powers, such as China and Iran.

The legislation got a nod from former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden: Trump, Putin presser was 'beneath the dignity' of the presidency Biden: I’m ‘ashamed’ of Trump’s border policies Biden to ramp up campaigning for Dem candidates after Labor Day: report MORE on Tuesday, who called it an “appropriate step” during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “Were I in the Senate, I’d be supporting that legislation,” Biden told the audience.

Reps. Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-Lehtinen'Paws for Celebration' event brings rescue animals to the Capitol An important story that must be told GOP lawmakers relieved with Pruitt’s departure MORE (R-Fla.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderNew Holocaust Museum exhibit challenges us to continue asking hard questions Dem letter calls for rolling back move targeting drug companies Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade MORE (D-Ill.) have introduced the House bill. 

“There is nothing more important to our democracy than making sure we protect the integrity of the electoral process — this is an issue that transcends party labels," said Van Hollen in a statement to The Hill.

"I’m very pleased that Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Brad Schneider have introduced the House companion of the DETER Act, and we’re working hard to build bipartisan support and pass it into law.”

The bill has bipartisan support in the House and Senate but it remains to be seen if it actually gets a vote and makes it to the president's desk.

The bill is the latest in a string of efforts to address Russian meddling through legislation. A bipartisan group of senators have also introduced a bill specifically aimed at helping states protect their election systems from cyberattacks ahead of future votes.

The topic has consumed Washington over the last year, as special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE presses forward with his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The coming week is poised to bring more speculation about whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpShocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Trump stuns the world at Putin summit MORE himself could soon sit for an interview with the special counsel’s office.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department confirmed that Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRyan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families MORE was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team. Sessions, who played a prominent role in the Trump campaign before joining the administration, could offer key details relevant to Mueller’s inquiries about potential collusion or obstruction of justice.

Mueller also reportedly interviewed former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyComey: 'Patriots need to stand up and reject' Trump's behavior Swalwell: Trump delaying end of Russia probe with refusal to testify Why does Congress keep playing political games on FBI oversight? MORE last year.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he is “looking forward” to speaking with Mueller, adding that he would do it under oath.

But Trump's own lawyers have cautioned that any sitdown must be first negotiated. 

The coming week will offer a host of cybersecurity-related events. House and Senate lawmakers return to Capitol Hill on Monday afternoon facing a Feb. 8 deadline to fund the government after a brief partial shutdown last week.

The House Small Business Committee has scheduled a hearing on how information sharing can help combat foreign cyber threats, focused on the federal government’s engagement with the private sector.

The House Armed Services Committee will explore how to prepare the U.S. military for future warfare.

Additionally, the 2018 Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) Winter Summit is taking place on Monday, which will feature remarks from White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce, among a number of distinguished speakers.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTop Senate Dem: Trump administration's lack of focus on election security an 'embarrassment' DHS secretary: No sign Russia targeting midterm elections at 2016 level Mexico's president presses Pompeo on reuniting migrant families MORE is also slated to speak at the Wilson Center the same day about confronting the terror threat to the United States.

In case you missed them, here are some of our recent pieces:

Dutch spy agencies reportedly passed FBI ‘crucial’ intel on Russian election hacking

DNC beefs up cyber team with former Yahoo executive

Wyden blasts FBI chief over encryption remarks

Six revelations from tech's answers on Russian election meddling 

Government watchdog adds security clearance process to ‘high risk list'

House Energy and Commerce demands answers on Spectre and Meltdown cyber flaws

Russia-linked hacker group claims release of documents from International Luge Federation

Pakistani hacking campaign leads in website defacements, study shows

Dem presses Homeland Security for update on Kaspersky ban