FBI Director Chris Wray spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations late last week and reiterated ongoing concerns about Russian efforts to interfere in American elections. Wray, handpicked by Donald Trump to lead the bureau, described the issue as a "significant counterintelligence threat," adding that the 2018 election cycle was "just kind of a dress rehearsal for the big show in 2020."
And while warnings like these may suggest the administration is taking the threat seriously, as the New York Times reported, a behind-the-scenes problem persists.
While American officials have promised to continue to try to counter, block and weaken the Russian intelligence operations, they have complained of a lack of high-level coordination. President Trump has little interest or patience for hearing about such warnings, officials have said.Mr. Trump views any discussion of future Russian interference as effectively questioning the legitimacy of his 2016 victory, prompting senior officials to head off discussions with him.
This comes on the heels of related reporting on acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney telling Kirstjen Nielsen, before her ouster as Homeland Security secretary, not to even broach the subject of foreign interference in our elections around Trump, apparently because it makes the president feel bad.
It's also worth considering reports like these in an even broader context. The Republican National Committee, for example, has not publicly committed to rejecting materials hacked by foreign operatives. Jared Kushner last week downplayed the Russian attack in 2016 as being little more than "a couple of Facebook ads." Rudy Giuliani recently told a national television audiences there's "nothing wrong" with an American campaign receiving aid from a foreign foe. Brad Parscale suggested last week Russian interference barely even happened.
It's hardly outrageous to be concerned about whether foreign adversaries, especially in Moscow, might see all of this as encouraging future election attacks.
It's against this backdrop that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) appeared on "Meet the Press" yesterday and told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, in reference to foreign intervention in American elections, "[L]et's not blow this thing out of proportion. Let's be vigilant. Let's be concerned about it. But let's not blow it out of proportion, either."
Johnson is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.