President Trump has declared it official: Russian activity on social media during the 2018 midterms was real and “very, very troubling.” It came in the form of Russia-linked ads and pages that made millions of dollars’ worth of purchases on Facebook.
He’s also making good on his promise to respond. The next step is a panel of Americans to select a “monitoring group” that will propose an action plan to prevent Russian meddling in 2020.
“If I were Vladimir Putin, I’d be pretty happy about that,” Trump said of an initiative announced in the White House Rose Garden yesterday.
Trump announced the plan just as the British Parliament voted in favor of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The British Parliament is unlike the United States — the majority of the elected branches are controlled by its own government. Trump’s decision to broadcast his referendum vote on this breaking news was apparently not without cost.
Richard Allan, a senior staffer at Facebook, said the company had been looking ahead to what happens next:
“Today, we are announcing that we are changing the way we operate — putting forward this strategy as an aspirational goal and investing resources to improve our ability to deliver on it. We will also be analyzing every asset across our platform, analyzing everything we are doing to promote elections and in particular, to deter interference,” Allan said.
President Trump is already looking to make more of the same this election season. An announcement is reportedly imminent. The president believes the council, headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, will be able to help detect foreign meddling and assist the government in deterring other countries from doing it in the future.
This seems like an acknowledgement that this round of Russian meddling was not a one-off. Trump immediately endorsed a change to U.S. foreign policy that would require the U.S. to receive “proof” that another country was attempting to influence an election. “Not before Election Day, not before the vote, and maybe not ever,” Trump told reporters.
It’s also likely that Trump is ready to dismantle the previously redacted Russia policy apparatus, the working group on elections. Chief among its members is Christopher Krebs, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division. Krebs told Reuters the group, including Krebs, has warned multiple countries, including Russia, that they can face “consequences” for any attempts to interfere in foreign elections.
Also included in the official lineup is Jesselyn Radack, the top lawyer for the Government Accountability Office who happens to represent special counsel Robert Mueller.
There were many more names on the list released yesterday but Congresswomen Maxine Waters, Mark Pocan, and Ed Markey want them all to be included. Several members of Congress have already called for their resignation over their role in drafting a memo that said there was no evidence that Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.