Armed Services chair wants White House to coordinate effort against ‘malign foreign influence’

Armed Services chair wants White House to coordinate effort against ‘malign foreign influence’
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is proposing that Congress mandate that the National Security Council coordinate the government’s effort to counter “malign foreign influence.”

The provision is included in Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Trump roils NATO on summit's first day | Trump, Merkel relationship sinks lower | House, Senate kick off defense bill talks | Senators symbolically rebuke Trump on national security tariffs Overnight Health Care: Pfizer delaying price hikes after Trump criticism | Dems focus on health care in Supreme Court fight | Feds won’t reunite all 102 detained children by deadline | VA nominee headed to Senate floor vote FDA approves freeze-dried blood plasma for troops in combat MORE's (R-Texas) mark of the fiscal 2019 defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released on Monday.

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While the document does not specifically mention Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the provision appears to be a direct response to Moscow’s influence effort. 

The proposal would direct President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE to designate a member of the National Security Council to coordinate the interagency effort against malign foreign influence. Trump would also be required to submit to Congress a strategy for countering malign foreign influence within nine months of the bill’s enactment.

The proposed legislation would specifically define malign foreign influence operations and campaigns as “the coordinated, integrated, and synchronized application of national diplomatic, informational, military, economic, business, corruption, educational, and other capabilities by hostile foreign powers to foster attitudes, behaviors, decisions, or outcomes within the United States.” 

The president’s strategy would go to the House committees on Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Government Reform, and Intelligence as well as the Senate committees on Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Intelligence.

The National Security Council official selected to coordinate the effort would also be required to brief these congressional committees at least twice a year on the administration’s efforts.

According to the U.S. intelligence community, Russia sought to use cyberattacks and disinformation in order to interfere in the 2016 vote with the goals of undermining democracy, damaging Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Dem pollster: GOP women have a more difficult time winning primary races than Dems Mellman: (Mis)interpreting elections MORE and helping Trump win the White House. 

The revelation has spurred widespread concerns that Moscow or other nations could look to interfere in future elections. Trump and other officials have insisted the administration will work to stop future interference efforts. 

The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to begin marking up the fiscal 2019 NDAA on Wednesday morning.