Cybersecurity

Yang compares U.S. election tampering to Russia's election interference efforts

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Tuesday night said that the U.S. has "tampered with other elections" in calling for action to be taken to deter Russia from interfering in the 2020 election.

"We have to let Russia know, look, we get it, we've tampered with other elections, you've tampered with our elections, and now it has to stop, and if it does not stop we will take this as an act of hostility against the American people," Yang said during the Democratic primary debate.

Yang described Russian hacking efforts ahead of the 2016 U.S. elections as "an illustration of the 21st century threats" such as cybersecurity and climate change, vowing to help "pull us forward" in addressing these issues.

Democratic candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), one the main Senate Democrats to push for action on election security over the past several months, pushed back strongly against Yang's assertion that the U.S. and Russia were equal in terms of election interference against other nations.

"I don't see a moral equivalency between our country and Russia," Klobuchar said, adding that Russian interference in 2016 was "much more serious" than "meddling," and that Russia's actions constituted an "invasion" of U.S. elections.

Klobuchar called for the use of paper ballot backups in every state to prevent election meddling by Russian actors, and also urged passage of legislation to prevent social media companies from running political advertisements without disclosing to users who paid for them.

Specifically, Klobuchar urged passage of the Honest Ads Act, a bill she introduced earlier this year with Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

This legislation, which has not seen movement in the Senate, would change the language of the Federal Election Campaign Act to require the sponsors of ads to be disclosed "in any public communication" instead of specific mediums. It would also require all social media sites with more than 50 million monthly visitors to maintain a public file of all political ads purchased for more than $500.

"We can't wait to become president to get that done, we need to get that done now," Klobuchar said Tuesday night of action to bolster election security. 

Other Democratic presidential candidates including former Vice President Joe Biden, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer also discussed Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections during the debate, with O'Rourke saying, "We must be in charge of holding Russia accountable for invading our democracy."

Democrats in both the House and Senate have pushed hard for further action to be taken to secure U.S. elections over the past several months, particularly following the release of the report on Russia's 2016 interference efforts by former special counsel Robert Mueller, and of reports on these efforts that have recently been released by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

While the House has passed two major election security bills, and plans to take up another later this month, the Senate Republicans have blocked the majority of proposed bills, citing concerns around federalizing elections. 

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