Congress

Schumer uses Kushner’s downplaying of Russian election interference to pitch sanctions

Democratic leader outlines bipartisan proposals he wants the Senate to consider ahead of 2020

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer wants more sanctions targeting Russia. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Jared Kushner’s attempt to downplay Russian election interference has given Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer another reason to push for more sanctions against the country ahead of 2020.

In a new letter to members of the Senate Democratic caucus, the New York Democrat cited Kushner’s comments last week at the inaugural Time 100 Summit. 

A senior Democratic aide said Schumer would be making a formal request for an all-senators briefing on preparations for the 2020 elections with leaders from Homeland Security and the FBI, as well as cyber command.

[As Russia fog lifts for Trump, will Democrats finally see reality?]

“You look at what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it, and it’s a terrible thing,” Kushner, a senior White House adviser and Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said in the Time interview. “But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.”

“This was more than “some ads”. It was a coordinated and sophisticated attack on the foundation of our democracy: our election system. It is time for the Senate to take action,” Schumer snapped back in the letter released Tuesday.

[Mueller report: Russia hacked state databases and voting machine companies]

Tuesday afternoon will be the first meeting of the caucus since the release of the redacted version of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. The released version of the Mueller report made a reference to intrusion from Russia into an election system in the state of Florida through a GRU attack, which has given new life to an accusation made in 2018 by then-Sen. Bill Nelson

In the aftermath of that report, Schumer wrote to his colleagues saying he wants to see further sanctions to Russia’s government and its supporters.

“Additional sanctions should be imposed against President Putin and other adversaries considering similar malign activities. The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) and Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (DETER Act) are bipartisan bills that deserve consideration,” he wrote.

Schumer’s letter also makes another pitch for the bipartisan Secure Elections Act. The bill, which has supporters in both parties, was introduced by Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford and Rules and Administrations ranking member Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota.

President Donald Trump raised objections to the legislation last summer, leading to the Rules and Administration Committee scrapping a markup during the August session. The administration cited concerns about the potential imposition of federal control on state and local elections.

In addition to reviving legislation to help secure election systems, Schumer also wants continued funding for state and local governments through the appropriations process.

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