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Murphy: Russia will become more of a threat to US election while Trump is in quarantine

Greg Nash

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Friday that while President Trump cannot be on the campaign trail due to his recent coronavirus diagnosis, that Russia will become an increasing threat to the Nov. 3 election. 

The commentary from Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, comes just hours after Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Their diagnosis came shortly after news broke that top White House aide Hope Hicks had also tested positive for the disease. 

During an interview Friday with CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Murphy warned that Russia may look to take advantage of Trump’s diagnosis. 

“You have to be much more serious about the Russian threat given today’s news,” Murphy told Sciutto. “If President Trump can’t be out there on the campaign trail for the next two weeks, then he is going to rely on his surrogates and, unfortunately, one of his surrogates is Vladimir Putin.”

“So you are likely going to see this campaign ramped up by Russia over the next few weeks to try to substitute for the president’s absence on the campaign trail,” Murphy continued without providing specific evidence. “And my worry is that the intel agencies are not being clear with the American people about the size of the Russian operation and their clear desire to try to elect President Trump to a second term.”

Concerns regarding foreign election interference have increased in the past few months following an assessment from William Evanina, director of National Counterintelligence and Security Center. Evanina said that Russia, China and Iran are engaging in interference efforts surrounding the elections. 

His assessment also detailed that Russia was seeking to influence the election in favor of Trump, while China and Iran preferred the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Other lawmakers have raised concerns regarding foreign election interference, and recently Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) proposed legislation intended to cut down on foreign disinformation on social media. 

Reporting from former special counsel Robert Mueller found that in 2016, Russia engaged in a sweeping disinformation campaign on social media in order to influence the U.S. election between then-candidate Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  

The president and first lady are only experiencing mild symptoms, according to the White House. 

Democratic nominee Joe Biden was tested Friday morning, according to the campaign, and he has tested negative for the coronavirus.

updated 2:15 p.m.

Tags Abigail Spanberger Chris Murphy Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump foreign election interference Hillary Clinton Hope Hicks Joe Biden John Katko Melania Trump Robert Mueller Vladimir Putin

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