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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCheney, House Republicans express 'serious concerns' with US-Taliban deal GOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Overnight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions 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) CusackDemocrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation' The Hill's Editor-in-Chief: Can Michael Bloomberg erase his terrible debate performance? The Hill's review of John Solomon's columns on Ukraine 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) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary 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.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr., Meadows wear matching Trump jackets on 'Fox & Friends' Group auctioning off hunting trip with Donald Trump Jr. Trump allies to barnstorm Iowa for caucuses 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 ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE.

On Monday, Pompeo declined to comment on Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiWanna beat Sanders? Hope he wins South Carolina Giuliani: Bloomberg 'jeopardized' stop and frisk by 'overusing it' Giuliani asked for post-9/11 mayoral election to be canceled so he could stay in office: book 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.