Budowsky: Is Russia attacking 2020 Dems?

Budowsky: Is Russia attacking 2020 Dems?
© The Hill photo illustration

I call on the House and Senate Intelligence committees, committees with jurisdiction over armed services and foreign policy, and leading social media companies to investigate whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his operatives to execute concerted attacks against leading Democratic candidates for president in 2020.

Regarding the upcoming report from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE, every scintilla of evidence about any Russian attack against America must be publicly disclosed, regardless of who is formally indicted.

There is credible evidence that systematic attacks with significant involvement of hostile foreign sources have begun against Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (I-Vt.), and former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

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After Politico, Vanity Fair and other news organizations reported about these attacks against leading national Democrats, I addressed this subject in a contributor column in The Hill. Because of the enormous importance of this matter, and because my columns in the paper have significant readership in Congress and from others with major interest in defending America from foreign attacks, I am elaborating on this subject here.

There is no question there have been systematic attacks against Harris, Warren, Sanders and O’Rourke that involved social media sources outside our two-party system. There is strong evidence that hostile foreign sources were significant drivers of these attacks. There is widespread suspicion — though not certainty — that Russia is a major player behind these attacks.

With leading Democratic candidates or potential candidates for president under hostile attack from foreign sources, this matter should be aggressively investigated by key congressional committees, leading social media companies including Facebook and Twitter, and investigative journalists for respected news organizations.

I believe with 90 percent confidence that Vladimir Putin has directed his operatives to initiate aggressive attacks against leading Democratic candidates for president in 2020, similar to Russian attacks against Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE in 2016, for the purpose of reelecting President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE in 2020, as the attacks against Clinton were designed to elect Trump in 2016.

If the investigations I propose are conducted, it is possible their findings refute the theory I propose here. 

If so, good. Every patriotic American should be consumed only by the search for facts and truth to defend American democracy from foreign attacks. For this reason all Republicans should join Democrats supporting the investigations proposed here.

If these investigations confirm Russian involvement in aggressive attacks against leading Democrats running for president, they would expose the operation and undermine its effectiveness, which as we learned in 2016, could impose devastating damage on our democracy.

I have scrupulously avoided any public conclusions about innocence or guilt on the matter of collusion, awaiting the findings of the Mueller report.  But as many leading voices of American intelligence and countless high-level retired military officers and security officials serving Republican and Democratic administrations have noted, it is alarming to witness the scorn, contempt, derision and attacks against American intelligence, counterintelligence and FBI officials by President Trump and his most fanatic defenders.

I have dealt with the intelligence community ever since I worked for former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), who introduced bills to protect the identities of clandestine CIA officers and provide death benefits to families of those killed in the line of duty, which I worked on extensively.

It is alarming and unacceptable for any president to trust the word of a former KGB boss over the findings of intelligence leaders who courageously defend our country.  

It is alarming and chilling to witness intelligence leaders publicly testify of their disagreement with the president on critical issues, followed by anonymous stories about the potential firing of Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE.  

It is alarming and unprecedented for leaders of our democratic allies to question our president’s commitment to alliances that defend democracy, while he praises dictators who threaten democracy. 

Americans have an urgent need to know whether or not there is now an aggressive Russian operation to attack Democratic candidates for president, designed to determine who will be elected president in 2020. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.