Kamala Harris has warned that Russia is again meddling in US elections to the extent that it could once again throw the outcome to Donald Trump, compounding all the other threats to the US’s electoral system.
Speaking to CNN’s Dana Bash about a Homeland Security bulletin advising that Russia is “amplifying” the president’s baseless claims of widespread mail-in ballot fraud, the vice-presidential nominee said that she had no doubt that the Kremlin’s activities will be a factor in the campaign right up until polling day.
“I am clear that Russia interfered in the election of the president of the United States in 2016. I serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee; we have published detailed reports about exactly what we believe happened, and I do believe that there will be foreign interference in the 2020 election and that Russia will be at the front of the line.”
“Could it cost you the White House?” asked Ms Bash. Ms Harris did not pause.
“Theoretically, of course.”
Warnings of renewed Russian election interference have been circulating for some time. Joe Biden warned about it this summer, saying at a fundraiser that “we know from before and I guarantee you I know now because now I get briefings again. The Russians are still engaged in trying to delegitimise our electoral process. Fact."
Other foreign powers, notably China, are known to be exerting influence on US politics to varying degrees, but Russia is widely held to be by far the most direct and ambitious meddler.
While Mr Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr warned last week that it was China that posed the bigger threat, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff responded that Mr Barr was lying in order to save the president.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s latest report on the extent of Russian involvement in the 2016 election gave an extended and highly detailed account of Trump associates’ connections with Russian operatives and business interests.
While Republicans on the committee characterised the report as proving there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, their Democratic colleagues – Ms Harris among them – issued a statement concluding that the report “unambiguously shows that members of the Trump campaign co-operated with Russian efforts to get Trump elected”.
Ms Harris’s uncompromising diagnosis of the threat to the integrity of the election did not just revolve around Russian influence. She also trained her sights on state-level efforts to keep particular groups from voting, as well as the president’s own assault on Americans’ confidence in their electoral process.
“I’m a realist about it, Joe’s a realist about it ... We have classic voter suppression. We have what happened in 2016, which is foreign interference. We have a president who is trying to convince the American people not to believe in the integrity of our election system and compromise their belief that their vote might actually count.
“These things are all at play. And I am very realistic, Joe is very realistic about the fact that until we can win, can get in and put some teeth back in the Voting Rights Act and bring back the confidence in the system, that there will be many obstacles that people are intentionally placing in front of Americans’ ability to vote. But we will surpass and surmount and get around those obstacles.”
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