Advertisement
  1. Opinion

It was Russia. Ask Senate Republicans. | Editorial

The bipartisan Senate report reaffirms the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. Let’s do something about it before 2020.
President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in June.  A new bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee reaffirmed the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Associated Press)
President Donald Trump, right, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in June. A new bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee reaffirmed the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Associated Press)
Published Oct. 11

A new report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee reaffirms what the White House refuses to accept: Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help then-candidate Donald Trump and to hurt his presidential rivals. The findings are alarming for the breadth of Russia’s operation, the Kremlin’s direct involvement and the ongoing threat posed by foreign meddling to American democracy. But perhaps more than anything, the report amounts to a bipartisan rebuke of the White House’s own disinformation campaign to shift the blame away from Russia.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., released a second report this week that furthered the findings of America’s intelligence community that Russia launched a broad attack on the 2016 election. Russian operatives, it reported, used an array of social media platforms to wage “a sustained campaign of information warfare against the United States aimed at influencing how this nation’s citizens think about themselves, their government, and their fellow Americans.”

Masquerading as Americans, the report found, Russian trolls used targeted ads and falsified news articles “to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States," looking “to polarize Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences'' with the goal of "influencing how this nation’s citizens think about themselves, their government, and their fellow Americans.” According to one analysis, in the final three months leading up to Election Day, the top-performing intentionally false stories on Facebook actually drew more shares and comments than the top news stories from 19 major news outlets combined.

Russian operatives, the committee held, did more than work “to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.” Other candidates whom the Kremlin feared would be tougher on Moscow than Trump were also targeted, including three of his Republican primary opponents, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Moreover, the panel found Moscow’s election interference “was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society," the breadth of which was “vastly more complex and strategic” than initially understood. And “no single group of Americans” was targeted more than African-Americans, the committee found, with two-thirds of all Facebook ads related to race.

The panel recommended that the executive branch, Congress and industry take numerous steps to curtail these foreign influence operations, finding that Russian activity on social media did not stop but increased after Election Day 2016, up by 238 percent on Instagram alone. “After election day,” one analyst noted, “the Russian government stepped on the gas.” But what confidence can Americans have that the president will follow through when he continues to fan the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine - not Russia - meddled in the election and for Clinton’s benefit?

The Senate committee has performed a valuable public service in this hyper-partisan environment by putting facts before political affiliation. However the impeachment inquiry proceeds, Congress should heed the warnings about foreign influence and work to bring greater transparency to America’s elections process.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. House Judiciary Committee session during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, Pool) [JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP]
    There is a reason Republicans continue to embrace debunked conspiracy theories over Ukraine and the 2016 election, writes a columnist.
  2. Connor Lovejoy, 12, (center left) is pictured with his grandmother Cathy Lovejoy, 57, (center right) who legally adopted him, Coco (left) his therapy dog, Loki, who is a trained service dog (right) and a new kitten named Weasley (center). Connor is diagnosed with autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiance disorder (ODD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The boy has been taken for mental health evaluations in the back of a police cruiser under Florid'a Baker Act more times than his grandmother can remember. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Times]
    Too often, the decisions are being made by officers without proper training and without notifying parents first.
  3. Ukraine Nazi concentration camp survivor Petro Mischtschuk, 78 years old, kneels with a red rose in his hand in front of the camp entrance at the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar, eastern Germany, in April 2005. [JENS MEYER  |  AP]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Friday’s letters to the editor.
  4. We asked readers the eternal question in polls on Facebook and Twitter. Here are the results.
  5. A simplified version of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution hangs prominently in Dawn Brown's classroom at Crews Lake Middle.  [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times]
    Here’s what readers had to say in Thursday’s letters to the editor.
  6. Yesterday• Opinion
    Mexico's Treasury Secretary Arturo Herrera, left, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada Chrystia Freeland, second left, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, Mexico's top trade negotiator Jesus Seade, second right, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, hold the documents after signing an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement, at the national palace in Mexico City on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) [MARCO UGARTE  |  AP]
    The new North American trade pact is good for the nation and for Florida.
  7. Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) in front of a grid the SS had fashioned from railway tracks for the purpose of burning the corpses of dead inmates from the mass graves, April 12, 1945 [MOORE, U.S. SIGNAL CORPS  |  National Archives Washington]
    Some things are not up for debate. The Holocaust happened, write two officials from the Florida Holocaust Museum.
  8. There are great programs in Hillsborough public schools to provide free or low-cost breakfast and lunch for students who qualify.
    Proposed changes by the Trump administration would make some students go hungry.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement