WH not combating Russian election interference: Durbin on Powerhouse Politics

PHOTO: Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., center, makes an opening statement as the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the Trump administrations policies on immigration enforcement and family reunification efforts, on Capitol Hill, July 31, 2018. PlayJ. Scott Applewhite/AP
WATCH Fiery opening statements kick off Manafort trial

The Senate's second-ranking Democrat says that the Trump White House has no one in charge of combating Russian election interference.

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“The fact that I cannot identify the one person in this administration that is working night and day to make sure that our elections and communications in this country are protected from Russian intrusion speaks volumes,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. D-Ill., told Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts Rick Klein and MaryAlice Parks Wednesday. “The president has never taken it seriously."

Durbin says no one should use the word “meddling” anymore when it comes to Russian election interference; he insists that Russian efforts are far more serious.

“‘Meddling’ sounds like some tomfoolery by a teenager,” Durbin said. “What we're talking about here is the decision of a nuclear-powered nation, enemy of the United States, to undermine the electoral process of the United States of America.”

The senator says that Russia is not only “determined” to interfere in the midterm elections but is also “likely to.”

PHOTO: In this June 13, 2012, file photo then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE
In this June 13, 2012, file photo then-FBI Director Robert Mueller listens as he testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Amid reports that the offices of both Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., were apparently targeted by Russian hackers, Durbin warned: “What happened to my colleagues ... could happen to any member of Congress and is likely to before the November election.”

And with the second day of the Paul Manafort trial underway in Alexandria, Virginia, Durbin believes President Trump is attempting to “feed his base” and “create some uncertainty in the American public opinion” by tweeting about special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

“[Trump’s] discrediting Mueller every day that he can in the hopes that the American people wouldn't believe him if he came out and said anything,” Durbin stated.

When asked if his fight against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, is fading as more of his Senate colleagues meet with the president’s pick, Durbin said: “No, I don't think so at all.”

PHOTO: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh shakes hands with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 9, 2018.Jim Bourg/Reuters
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh shakes hands with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 9, 2018.

“When you look at public opinion polls, the American people know very little about Judge Kavanaugh,” the Democrat continued. “He was announced several weeks ago but there have been many historic, intervening events that have occurred since then, which have taken the public attention away from his Supreme Court nomination.”

On the upcoming midterms, Durbin was clear: “This election is critically important ... but 2020 is going to be a game changer for America."

Every Wednesday, ABC Radio and iTunes brings you the Powerhouse Politics Podcast which includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Hosted by ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

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