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 PompeoTrump fires back at Graham over Iran criticism Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran 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) CusackPoliticon announces lineup including Comey, Hannity, Priebus The Hill's Editor-in-Chief: Why Yang won't run third party Hill editor-in-chief: Sanders has to ease fears among seniors on 'Medicare for All' 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 MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal 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 TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border 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 TrumpDemocrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties Trump dismisses NYT explanation on Kavanaugh correction The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 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 ClintonGOP struggles with retirement wave Overnight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? MORE.

On Monday, Pompeo declined to comment on Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani tears into Democrats after House opens probe into whether he pressured Ukraine to target Biden House Democrats launch probe into whether Trump, Giuliani pressured Ukraine to target Biden Ted Cruz fires back at Lori Lightfoot: 'Mayor, your anger is misplaced' 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.