Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailed a stunning scope of actions taken by the Russian government, or on their behalf, to sabotage the integrity of the 2016 presidential election — ranging from the troll farm at the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency disrupting social media, to Russian officials trying to get in contact with President Donald Trump’s campaign.
But that could just be the beginning. On Thursday, Axios laid out how the United States is still vulnerable to an attack of the sort Russia perpetrated in 2016 — and how the attack could be even worse in 2020.
First, Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and several GOP state officials have obstructed any attempt to coordinate election integrity or cybersecurity efforts. Second, America is even more on edge now than it was in 2016, with Trump stoking fear and hatred on a daily basis, all of which would make the country vulnerable once again.
Experts debate what Russian President Vladimir Putin will do next — but many are worried.
Russian intelligence scholar Mark told Axios he expects Russia will seek “to escalate and magnify the inevitable divisions that become exacerbated in election times … these opportunities are likely to be plentiful.” Andrew Weiss, an authority on Russia at the Carnegie Endowment, said “I see no reason to expect that U.S./Western actions since 2016 have changed Moscow’s appetite for risk. Buckle up.” And Aric Toler, the lead researcher at European investigative group Bellingcat, suggested that Putin will simply do what he did before, with “a lot of ad hoc actors within and from outside the Russian government/security services with similar targets as in 2016.”
After all, it worked last time.