On Tuesday, following an explosive report on how Russia sought to use former President Donald Trump's allies to manipulate the 2020 presidential election, House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) walked through the implications on CNN.
"Russia didn't succeed in getting Trump re-elected, but can Putin claim mission accomplished for sowing chaos and distrust in the American electoral system and other institutions?" asked anchor Wolf Blitzer.
"I think he can certainly feel that his efforts paid off over the last four or six years," said Schiff, who was a central figure in the investigation of Trump's misconduct in Ukraine. "In particular, the Russians pushed out this false narrative of the former president that the elections were the subject of massive fraud. The Russians amplified that message that Americans can't trust their own electoral system. Obviously a very deeply destructive message that wouldn't gain much traction with Americans, except for the fact that Donald Trump was also pushing this Kremlin narrative."
"We have to get to a point where both parties agree to shun any foreign interference, to condemn any foreign interference if they are offered stolen e-mails, that are hacked from either party, to turn them down and report to the FBI," said Schiff. "That's the only way that we protect ourselves is developing that consensus. It was very hard to do while Donald Trump was in office. I hope we can do it now."
"The report did find no indication, Congressman, that any foreign actor actually changed ballots or results," noted Blitzer.
"I do think that the predominant threat in elections going forward, as we've seen in elections past, is less changing the actual votes and more changing the voters, influencing the voters," agreed Schiff. "The difference that the report draws, the distinction between influence operations and interference, actually trying to change voter databases, but nonetheless very serious and pernicious, and just because the Russians decided not try to change the actual tallies in this cycle doesn't mean that they couldn't be more aggressive in the next. So we still need to harden the defenses of our elections infrastructure."