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Pompeo predicts Russia will be election threat for decades

Pompeo predicts Russia will be election threat for decades
© Kevin Dietsch for The Hill

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Pompeo defends Trump on Russia in Chris Wallace interview Pompeo: Decline of free speech on college campuses keeps me up at night MORE said Monday he expects Russia will try to interfere in U.S. elections for decades to come, describing Moscow as having long presented a threat to American elections — not just in 2016.  

Pompeo told The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Key Democrat says traveler fees should fund infrastructure projects Trump legal switch hints at larger problems MORE that “of course” the Russians continue to represent a threat to U.S. elections. But he dismissed the notion that the threat is somehow new or more severe following Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election as detailed in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s report.

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“It goes without saying they were a threat to our elections in 1974, they interfered in our elections in the '80s,” Pompeo said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations hosted by The Hill’s Newsmaker Series.

“The fact that this town seemed shocked by the fact the Russians don’t care for us — in that case the Soviet Union — I find stunning,” Pompeo said, adding that books have recounted the Russian threat “over an extended period of time.”

“We should expect in 2050 the Russians will still be at it still,” Pompeo said at the event, which was sponsored by the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies.

Mueller’s redacted report detailed a two-pronged effort by Moscow to use hacked Democratic emails and social media to influence the 2016 vote in President TrumpDonald TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations MORE’s favor. Mueller concluded his investigation at the end of March, finding no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Moscow despite multiple Russian efforts to contact the campaign.

Mueller’s report also detailed a willingness by some on the campaign to accept Russian help, including Donald Trump Jr.Don TrumpDonald Trump Jr. joins Cameo Book claims Trump family members were 'inappropriately' close with Secret Service agents Trump Jr. shares edited video showing father knocking Biden down with golf ball MORE’s acceptance of a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer after being offered damaging information on 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNSA leaker Reality Winner released from federal prison Monica Lewinsky signs production deal with 20th TV Police investigating death of TV anchor who uncovered Clinton tarmac meeting as suicide MORE.

On Monday, Pompeo declined to comment on Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSunday shows - Biden foreign policy in focus Giuliani accuses Biden of 'caving in to Iran' Giuliani endorses Republican Curtis Sliwa for NYC mayor MORE’s statement that there is “nothing wrong” with getting information from foreigners during a campaign. He said he would let Giuliani speak for himself and stressed that everyone should be “cognizant” of the source of information they receive.

“We should all be cognizant about the sources of the information we receive. We should be cognizant when we receive dossiers to make sure that they are right, that we have validated information before we report on it,” Pompeo said, apparently making a passing reference to the so-called Steele dossier containing salacious and unverified allegations about Trump’s ties to Moscow.

Pompeo described the threat as much broader than Russia — coming from China, Iran and non-state actors whose cyber capabilities could impede not only U.S. elections but also the functioning of the nation's infrastructure, including the financial system and telecommunications.

Pompeo said the Obama administration should have done more to prevent Russia’s interference and that the Trump administration has taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“We have the mission now to make sure this doesn’t happen,” Pompeo said.  

Over the course of his 22-month investigation, Mueller charged more than two-dozen Russians for the interference effort, which Moscow has systematically denied despite the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions. Trump has seemed to begrudgingly accept the finding that Russia meddled in the election to tip the scales in his favor.

Trump regularly attacked Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt” and has embraced its finding of no conspiracy between the campaign and Moscow. Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed the probe.