At the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, the world watched in bewilderment as our president accepted Russian denials of election interference over the unanimous verdict of American intelligence agencies. Afterwards, I contacted Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins to express my alarm at our president’s disturbing behavior.
Sen. King offered a clear-eyed response, declaring foreign interference in our elections “one of the most pressing threats our democracy faces.” Sen. Collins replied that Russian election interference efforts are “relentless” and continue to this day. Both highlighted their work to pass an additional $380 million appropriation to strengthen our election infrastructure. This is much-needed progress, but addresses only half the problem.
How can Russia be deterred from further aggression when our own president refuses to accept the threat we face? Despite stating that Trump must acknowledge the serious threat posed by Russia, King offered no actions to make this happen. Although Collins declared Trump’s denial “untenable and at odds with the forceful response this moment demands,” she too failed to mention any reasonable steps for applying pressure to the president.
Here’s one: congressional censure, a formal statement of disapproval. I suggested this to both, yet neither acknowledged the proposal. Our senators will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to change foreign behavior, but appear unready to take steps to change behavior in the White House. We must remind our delegation in Washington that the president’s failure to acknowledge the threat, let alone take action to prevent it, is behavior worthy of censure, if not something stronger.