Sessions Creates Cyber Task Force to Study Election Interference
The Hill | By Olivia Beavers
The Justice Department is creating a cyber-digital task force to examine outside attempts to interfere with U.S. elections, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday.
“At the Department of Justice, we take these threats seriously. That is why today I am ordering the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force to advise me on the most effective ways that this Department can confront these threats and keep the American people safe,” Sessions said in a statement. Sessions said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will name a senior department official to chair the task force. The effort will seek to “canvass the many ways that the Department is combatting the global cyber threat” as well as “identify how federal law enforcement can more effectively accomplish its mission in this vital and evolving area,” according to the press release.
The task force will be in charge of looking into a broad range of efforts in which outside actors sought to interfere. It is tasked with providing a report on its findings at the end of June.
“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” Sessions added. The new task force comes shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies on Friday with attempting to sow discord and interfere in the country’s presidential election by waging “information warfare.”
President Trump spent the weekend tweeting that the grand jury’s indictment vindicates him in the federal Russia probe because this particular set of charges did not point to collusion between Trump campaign aides and Russians. Trump in particular seized on the fact that the indictment accuses the Russians of beginning such efforts in 2014, before he had officially thrown his hat in the ring.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!” Trump tweeted shortly after the indictment became public.
But Trump’s critics pointed to Mueller’s indictment detailing the Russians’ sophisticated operation. The eight-count indictment also includes the explosive allegation that some defendants, who masqueraded as politically active Americans, had contact with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign” and others. The cyber force will bring together representatives from a wide range of DOJ offices along with outside law enforcement and federal agencies, depending on the direction of Rosenstein.
The announcement also comes amid growing calls on Capitol Hill to prioritize election security ahead of the approaching midterms.