Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., on Thursday spearheaded a letter signed by 15 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to request that the committee hold a hearing on the attempts by foreign powers to influence the U.S. presidential election.
“It is our hope that a potential hearing would address what interference took place, how it happened, and how we can prevent such actions going forward, in order to preserve the integrity of the U.S. electoral process,” Connolly told MeriTalk. “Electronic security is an important aspect, but not the only potential form of foreign interference in U.S. elections. We need to be vigilant on all fronts.”
The letter references the Oct. 7, 2016, statement by the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security, which said that the U.S. Intelligence Community was confident that Russia was behind the attacks on U.S. emails and institutions and that the nation did so in order to influence the outcome of the U.S. election.
“Ranking Member (Eliot) Engel, one of our most cherished institutions, democratic elections free of foreign interference, is in question,” the letter said. “We believe our committee can play a critical and constructive role in investigating and highlighting such foreign influence, and we respectfully request that you convene a hearing on the matter.”
According to the congressman’s press office, Connolly hopes to question investigative experts who have looked into the potential foreign interference, cybersecurity experts who can speak to needed improvements in election systems, and intelligence experts who can address the motivations behind the interference attempts.
The letter’s writers also justified the need for the hearing by citing past hearings discussing foreign interference in other countries and U.S. involvement in such situations.
“On April 15, 2015, the Committee conducted a hearing titled ‘Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information.’ This hearing examined Russia’s use of media to destabilize Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and beyond, and the U.S. government’s inability to respond effectively,” the letter said.
“It became clear that this was an opportunity for bipartisan and constructive oversight. When I shared the concept with other House Foreign Affairs Democrats, there was groundswell of support to take action on this subject,” Connolly said. “It is more important now than ever that we must continue to make critical investments and upgrades in our cybersecurity capabilities.”
At the time of publication, the House Foreign Affairs Committee had not yet scheduled a hearing on this topic.