Congress

Homeland, Judiciary Democrat asks Pelosi to form election security task force

Rep. Lou Correa cites Mueller's findings as a need for a group to help head off future attacks

Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., is asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi to form a select committee that would examine election security proposals. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Lou Correa is asking Speaker Nancy Pelosi to form a task force to examine proposals for combating foreign influence and ensuring U.S. electoral systems are secure, according to a letter obtained by CQ Roll Call.

The House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committee member wrote to his fellow California Democrat citing Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings that foreign actors compromised U.S. election security as reason such a group is needed.

“The report found that the Russian military launched and planned an attack on our nation and our political system,” Correa wrote in the letter to Pelosi. “They used cyber techniques to hack into our computers and networks. They stole private information and then disclosed that information through fake online profiles. They posed as American citizens and manipulated data for an agenda they agreed with.”

In light of that “attack on our democratic process,” Correa said it’s incumbent upon members of Congress need to ensure the nation’s electoral system is safe and free of foreign influence. 

Correa suggested a task force comprised of members from committees with jurisdiction over election security matters “to develop a response for each attack on our election system as annotated in the Mueller report to ensure that our nation’s elections are secure and not attacked.“ 

Congressional task forces not only bring together members from relevant legislative committees, the lawmakers often bring expertise from previous public or private sector experience in the issue at hand.

Correa — who did not specify in his letter but would likely want to serve on an election security task force if it were formed — worked on election security during his time in the California State Senate chairing the Election Committee.

Having a single group where members with relevant expertise can gather together to come up with ideas is a way to prioritize work on an issue of importance to the Congress. But often times the recommendations such task forces and panels produce still fall into the traps of legislative gridlock and are never adopted.

Pelosi announces legislative package

Democrats already have some legislative proposals to help secure U.S. elections. On the same day Correa sent his letter, Pelosi announced to reporters that her caucus has a package of legislation that they’re putting forth in light of Mueller’s report. 

That package will include an election security bill House Administration Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren is working on with her counterparts in the Senate that will include language on using paper ballots, Pelosi said. Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes has a bill to close foreign money loopholes that will also be included, she noted.

Pelosi’s announcement of the legislative package and Correa’s letter calling for a task force also come a day after President Donald Trump said he would accept information on an election opponent from Russia or other foreign actors. However, both had already been in the works before the president’s comments, which disgusted Democrats who think such offers should be rejected and reported to the FBI. 

“Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night,” Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference Thursday. “But he has a habit of making appalling statements.”

Democrats’ legislative package responding to the Mueller report will include a measure to require campaigns that receive offers of information from foreign actors to report that to the FBI.

“It’s so self-evident as a matter of ethics, but we’ll have to codify it, mandating a duty to report for campaigns reporting foreign intervention in our elections,” Pelosi said.

Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson will also soon be holding a hearing on preventing foreign disinformation, she said.

Democrats already have several ongoing investigations looking into the president’s alleged misdeeds. His latest comments will be considered as Democrats continue down a “methodical” path and collect the facts, Pelosi said when asked if Trump should be impeached for effectively inviting foreign interference U.S. elections.

The collecting of those facts “encompasses any and all the comments that the president has made,” the speaker said. 

Pelosi said the nicest thing she could say about Trump being willing to accept foreign opposition research is that he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. She added that he has “no ethical sense that informs his comments or his thinking.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.