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White House trusts Russia's word on election interference

The White House National Security Adviser insisted that Russia is "committed" to staying out of our elections, despite all of the overwhelming evidence.
National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Aug. 13, 2020.
National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Aug. 13, 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien isn't concerned about Russian interference in U.S. elections because his counterpart in Moscow assured him there are no such plans.

The adviser, Robert C. O'Brien, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he had delivered the warning during a meeting in Geneva on Friday with Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council. Mr. O'Brien did not disclose what else was discussed, but the meeting comes as the administration is racing a deadline to decide whether to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty and as it faces pressure to act against Moscow after the poisoning of Aleksei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader.

According to the CBS News transcript, O'Brien explained that during his discussion with Patrushev, he "demanded" that Russia not interfere in U.S. elections, adding, "The Russians have committed to" steering clear.

It's quite likely that the national security adviser knew that Donald Trump was watching, and his job might have been in jeopardy had he said anything different on the subject.

But, c'mon. Russia has "committed" to staying out of our elections, and that's good enough for O'Brien?

As the top White House official on national security policy really ought to know, William Evanina, Trump's director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, recently released a statement documenting the fact that Kremlin-linked operatives are already actively involved in an effort to keep the Republican president in power.

Soon after, the Department of Homeland Security issued an intelligence bulletin warning about Russian efforts to undermine our elections with false claims about our electoral system, which just so happened to echo the White House's talking points.

Then, of course, FBI Director Chris Wray delivered sworn congressional testimony describing "very active efforts" by Russia to interfere in the 2020 election by trying to "denigrate" the Democratic candidate.

As we recently discussed, the CIA also assessed over the summer that Vladimir Putin's government is "probably" directing a Russian operation to intervene in the election by discrediting Joe Biden.

In the private sector, meanwhile, tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have all pointed in recent weeks to Russian efforts to target U.S. elections. In fact, less than two weeks ago, Facebook announced that it had taken down a network linked to Russian disinformation, as part of a larger effort from the social-media giant to dismantle the Kremlin's efforts.

And yet, there was White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, trying to assure a national television audience that Moscow is "committed" to staying out of our elections, despite all of the overwhelming evidence that Russia is, right now, actively involved in doing the opposite.

Of course, this naturally leads to questions about what, if anything, the White House is doing to protect the United States from this attack, if the president's right-hand man on national security policy is skeptical that the ongoing attack is real.