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 PompeoPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist US bans top Myanmar generals from country over attacks on Rohingya Muslims 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) CusackGOP sen: Democrats talking about 'Medicare for All' shows they're unhappy with ObamaCare Lawmakers map out path forward on Medicare Part D Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court 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 MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Trump set to host controversial social media summit Trump associate Felix Sater grilled by House Intel 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 ClintonTrump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE.

On Monday, Pompeo declined to comment on Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiKamala Harris can deliver a punch — we'll soon see if she can take one Heavy loss by female candidate in Republican NC runoff sparks shock Chamber of Commerce hires former Giuliani, Cruz campaign aide 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.