WSJ: Senate Intel Prepping Report On Protecting Election Systems For Midterms

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) hold a news conference on the status of the committee's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election at the U.S. Capitol October 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.
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The Senate Intelligence Committee is aiming to release a report in the weeks to come outlining vulnerabilities in the U.S. election system it has uncovered over the course of its Russia probe, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The panel hopes to release the report in March as the 2018 primary season gets underway, according the Journal.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report will focus on measures that state and local officials can take to protect their election systems, according to the Wall Street Journal, but will leave aside more controversial questions about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded in those interference efforts.

The report will not signal the conclusion of the committee’s investigation, according to lawmakers on the panel.

“This is just to put a marker down,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the committee’s top Democrat, told the Wall Street Journal regarding the coming report.

As the Senate panel prepares its report, other congressional committees investigating foreign meddling in the 2016 election have devolved into utter dysfunction.

The House Intelligence Committee is feuding about the release — over the objections of the Justice Department — of a quickly debunked memo written by Republican staffers alleging FBI misconduct in the federal Russia probe. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation has also been sidetracked by Republicans’ efforts to cast doubt on the federal investigation.

GOP lawmakers have said their scrutiny of the FBI is separate from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation, a claim that President Trump has undermined by claiming their allegations support his criticism of the probe as a politically motivated “Russian Witch Hunt.”

Meanwhile, the top officials at relevant federal agencies have struggled to describe the federal government’s actions to understand and prevent future election meddling.

The FBI announced last fall the formation of a taskforce to address the issue, but on multiple occasions last year Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted he was not keeping particularly close tabs on the Justice Department’s efforts to prevent future meddling.

State officials criticized the Department of Homeland Security last year for the confusing process it used to notify 21 states they had been targeted by Russian hackers.

Last year, the CIA was forced to clarify remarks CIA Director Mike Pompeo made about the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s influence in the 2016 election.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday suggested that the U.S. is still struggling to come up with a response to foreign interference in its elections.

“I don’t know that I would say we are better prepared, because the Russians will adapt as well,” he told Fox News. “The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that.”