Politics & Policy

McConnell Calls Accusations That He’s a Russian Asset ‘Modern-Day McCarthyism’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after the weekly policy lunch in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2019. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday launched into a scathing speech on the Senate floor, defending himself against accusations that he aided Russian efforts to meddle in the 2020 elections by opposing an election-security bill that only one House Republican voted for.

“Over the last several days, I was called unpatriotic, un-American, and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of boldfaced lies,” the Kentucky Republican said. “I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as our adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years: Vladimir Putin.”

“Welcome to the modern-day McCarthyism.”

On Thursday, McConnell blocked votes on two bills designed to combat election interference, accusing Democrats of pushing them for political purposes. One bill would have funded the Election Assistance Commission and set up a requirement to use paper ballots, and the other would have required political candidates, their families, and their campaign associates to report to the FBI offers of assistance from foreign governments.

In his speech McConnell said an “Outrage Industrial Complex” has spread the narrative that he is a threat to election security because certain pundits and columnists cannot accept that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not turn up evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He accused MSNBC of hosting “conspiratorial voices” and called a Washington Post column by Dana Milbank that branded him a “Russian asset” a “shameful smear.”

“I constantly discuss all we’ve been doing to correct the Obama administration’s failures to respond more assertively to the Russian threat, including on election security,” he said. “The truth is that I’ve championed the coordinated work between Congress, the administration, and the states, which are primarily responsible for elections.”

“This Administration has made huge strides on election security since 2016,” McConnell said. “They made a noticeable impact in securing the 2018 election and are vigilant and proactive as we head into 2020.”

McConnell mentioned the administration’s offer of free cybersecurity training for state election authorities, the Department of Homeland Security’s deployment of special capabilities to detect malign cyber activity in all 50 states, and the sanctions President Trump has imposed on Russia to punish the country for its election meddling.

“Every single member of the Senate agrees that Russian meddling was real and is real,” McConnell said. “Claims to the contrary — claims that anybody here denies what Russia did on President Obama’s watch — are just lies.”

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