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: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN 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 TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown 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 Clinton2016 pollsters erred by not weighing education on state level, says political analyst Could President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Dem group targets Trump in M voter registration campaign: report 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.