Coherent strategy needed beyond limited sanctions to counter Russian aggression
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The sanctions that President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE finally imposed this week against Russian entities and individuals are the latest example of his scattershot approach to this and other foreign adversaries – a tactic without a strategy.

They’re also late, and a bare minimum. The sanctions come a month and a half after the White House blithely ignored the action deadline that Congress had set with near-unanimous votes last August. And they are targeted mostly against the same Russian troll farm and individuals whom Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE indicted last month and whom earlier were sanctioned by the Obama administration.

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They will not accomplish much by themselves, and “better than nothing” falls far short of what the free world deserves in a true leader.

This president still remains loath to acknowledge Russia’s sole responsibility for the coordinated campaign of hacking, disinformation, trolling, and voter database intrusions that hit America in 2016 – a conclusion on which our entire Intelligence Community agreed more than a year ago.

He has blamed the decline of U.S.-Russian relations on Congress, just as Vladimir Putin has, rather than assigning responsibility to Putin’s years-long global campaign of chaos. Yet the Department of Homeland Security now describes Russia’s multi-stage effort to target specific U.S. government entities and critical infrastructure including our power grid.

We’ve dropped our guard, and Russia keeps landing punches. America is on the ropes. It’s time we put our guard up and start hitting back with a coordinated strategy.

As we add more sanctions to these, we also must send a firm diplomatic message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continuous assaults – an unequivocal end to the fawning admiration and shameless bromance that the president has shown for the Russian dictator.

We must strengthen international resolve to isolate the Putin regime by immediately and unequivocally siding with our allies targeted in Russian attacks. 

That means supporting Germany and France when Russia seeks to influence their elections as it did ours, rather than carping about nonexistent NATO dues. It means moving in lockstep with the United Kingdom as it faces down Russia over deployment of a deadly nerve agent on British sovereign soil, rather than staying mum until after the president’s own (now soon-to-be-former) secretary of State and his ambassador to the United Nations took the lead for him.

It means we don’t do one-off missile strikes as a substitute for actual diplomatic and military strategy, as we did in Syria last year. And if we do decide to launch a missile strike to retaliate against the despot Bashar al-Assad for gassing his own people, it means we don’t tell Putin first so he can warn Assad to move his planes.

The president must give the National Security Agency authority to disrupt Russian election hacking operations where they originate – an authority that NSA chief Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersEarmarks look to be making a comeback Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal CIA's ‘surveillance state’ is operating against us all MORE told the Senate had not been granted as of a few weeks ago.

We must ensure that incoming Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — Officials warn of threat from Chinese spying | China blamed for Marriott hack | Trump open to intervening in Huawei case | FCC mulls ending merger ban on 'Big Four' networks | California floats tax on texts Russia plans to pull bombers from Venezuela on Friday, White House says MORE actually spends the $120 million allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign interference in our elections or efforts to undermine trust in our democracy – something the outgoing secretary failed to do.

Finally, it means we truly commit ourselves to exposing the depth and breadth of Russia’s interference in our election, so that we can prevent it from ever happening again.

The president and his friends in Congress have fought this at every turn, and in doing so have reduced years of bipartisan cooperation on the House Intelligence Committee to rubble while impugning the integrity of the police and intelligence officers who are sworn to protect us.

More than a year ago, I and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsPelosi agrees to term limits vote; insurgency collapses Black Caucus huddles as talk of term limits heats up Trump visit to Baltimore called off, event relocated to White House MORE – the House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat – introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act, which would create an independent and bipartisan-appointed commission to fully investigate foreign interference in our election. Modeled on the 9/11 Commission that successfully investigated that tragic attack on our nation, this body would include no politicians, only experts. It would exercise the subpoena power that House Intelligence Republicans refused to wield. It would provide a public report and recommendations that the American public truly could trust.

This – all of this – is how we put Putin in his place.

Waiting until international opprobrium for Russia to crest before taking even the most minimal action is not a good look for America, and President Trump’s foot-dragging and reticence in the face of aggression already has put us a few steps behind. We must implement a coherent and consistent strategy, not just throw another isolated, flailing punch.

Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell rips Trump: 'He is a lying president and a lying president is a weak president' Swalwell: I 'do see a path’ to 2020 Democratic nomination Roger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence MORE represents California’s 15th District and is Ranking Member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.