Russian president Vladimir Putin

While we squabble over impeachment, the Russian government is working to influence the next election. We should be more worried about this fact than whether or not Pelosi will try to impeach Trump.

In two highly anticipated appearances before U.S. House committees July 24, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller appeared much as he did during the investigation. He was calm and stoic throughout the examination. He offered little new information, choosing to let his report answer many questions.

Yet he did show that he believes the president’s actions or lack thereof should not be our main concern. In his eyes, the country should be more horrified that a foreign entity meddled in our election.

America should be working harder to prevent further interference. While Trump is a shady character and must lose in 2020, the loss of our free and fair elections is far worse. Unfortunately, much of the nation’s hate towards Trump has blinded them from recognizing this.

The most impassioned and forceful of Mueller’s answers were about Russian covert actions throughout the 2016 election. “It was not a hoax,” he said when asked if he agreed with Trump’s view of the situation.

“I think…we have underplayed, to a certain extent, that aspect of our investigation that has and would have long-term damage to the United States, that we need to move quickly to address,” he added. 

For Mueller, there is no time to waste in stopping Russia. At the end of the day, we need to keep our elections secure. No one should tell an American how to think or how to vote. But, with our lack of addressing the problem, it is alarming that foreign governments now know they can influence who Americans choose to lead the most powerful nation on Earth.

Russian Influence in the 2016 Election

There is substantial evidence that Russia’s actions were intentional. You should not even need to read Mueller’s report to know this. Russia or not, there is no scenario in which a foreign government accidentally steals secure information about United States candidates and voters.

Russian interference does not mean they went into voting booths and illegally voted. It means they worked to change how Americans viewed both candidates. The Russian government used false social media accounts and “news” stories to boost Trump’s image and slander Hillary Clinton. 

The United States has known about Russian use of social media to spread misinformation for over two years. The big questions were not if meddling happened, but how much and where. While there is no exact way to gauge how effective their fake stories were in getting Trump elected, it is easy to map how far they spread.

A report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, released July 25, expanded our knowledge of how far-reaching Russian hacking of election infrastructure was in 2016. The panel found that Russia had likely attempted to hack systems in every state. Whether or not they were successful is unanswered.

They did not try to change votes directly in the system. Top officials believe it was more to help Russia understand what the infrastructure looks like. This shows that they are willing and able to interfere with future elections.

We Should Listen to Mueller

This new report shows that Russia will be looking to meddle in 2020. They now know they can access voter data. With that data, they can learn how to sway certain people to support a certain candidate.

Our elections define our democracy. The singular, all-encompassing belief in the United States is that everyone gets a vote and it all counts the same. Although there are still limitations on the right to vote, we still trust that our elections are fair and represent the majority’s decision.

If we lose our faith in the voting process, our democracy will weaken significantly. Robert Mueller understands this. Senate Intelligence Committee members also agree with his assessment. 

“…the IC assesses that Russia’s activities against U.S. election infrastructure likely sought to further their overarching goal: undermining the integrity of elections and American confidence in democracy,” their report said.

It is understandable why we are obsessed with the obstruction question in Mueller’s report. Trump is, after all, one of the most powerful humans today because of the election. Yet it is still frustrating that we do not give Russian interference the same scrutiny and coverage. 

It will not matter who the Democratic candidate is in 2020 if Russian meddling remains unchecked. The Russian government wants Trump to continue making chaotic, half-baked decisions. They want America divided and focused on an impeachment battle for their own benefit.

We need to pay attention to what Mueller was telling us in his testimony. He is desperately trying to illustrate the true, malicious intent of Russia: to undermine our democracy through election interference. Trump will eventually leave, but the loss of our independent, fair elections will destroy us.

Russia will not just try to influence the 2020 election. When asked about Russia’s continued interference, Mueller gave Americans a clear warning. “They’re doing it as we sit here,” he said.

Mueller was asked what he wanted the report to be for Americans. “It is a signal…to those of us who have some responsibility in this area to exercise those responsibilities swiftly and don’t let this problem continue to linger as it has over so many years,” he said.

We need to pay attention to the true problem. It is what Mueller was first and foremost appointed to investigate. The overarching question was the Russian government’s work to influence the 2016 election. With his report and multiple indictments, Mueller answered this. Now he just needs the rest of us to actually listen.

Kayla Glaraton is a Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. Her interests include human rights, American politics and policy, the environment and international affairs. Kayla is studying journalism and...

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