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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 RubioStudents gather outside White House after walkout to protest gun violence Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE (R-Fla.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls Overnight Energy: Dems release docs questioning Pruitt's security | GOP pushes back on calls to investigate Pruitt | Pruitt's chief takes responsibility for controversial raises Trump pushes for added powers in spending fights 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 BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report Biden to decide on White House run at end of year Stormy Daniels’s 'View' is incorrect 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-LehtinenCuba set to pass power from Castro family Bipartisan group of lawmakers condemn anti-Semitic attacks on Parkland students Loss of Ryan hits hard for House Republicans MORE (R-Fla.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderFive races to watch in the Illinois primary Overnight Tech: Feds say bid for Qualcomm could be national security threat | BlackBerry sues Facebook | House votes to reauthorize FCC | Pew survey on social media use Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump taps finance exec as federal CIO | White House downplays talk of 5G takeover | Massive cryptocurrency heist sparks scrutiny 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 TrumpIG investigating Comey memos over classified information: report Overnight Defense: Congress poised for busy week on nominations, defense bill | Trump to deliver Naval Academy commencement speech | Trump administration appeals decision to block suspected combatant's transfer Top Pruitt aid requested backdate to resignation letter: report 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 SessionsMcCabe to sue Trump admin for defamation, wrongful termination Trump pressed Sessions to fire FBI agents who sent anti-Trump texts: report The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos 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 ComeyIG investigating Comey memos over classified information: report The Hill's 12:30 Report Memos don't prove 'obstruction' — they further cement Comey's legacy as a leaker 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 NielsenNavy, Marines chiefs say no morale issues with transgender troops Staff changes upend White House cyber team Overnight Cybersecurity: DHS chief delivers warning to cyber attackers | Tech giants pledge not to help government cyberattacks | Justices toss DOJ case against Microsoft 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