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Russia probes are needed to safeguard U.S. elections

Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner of the

Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner of the Senate Intelligence Committee brief reporters on their panel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. They spoke Oct. 4, 2017, in Washington. Credit: THEW/EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock

The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee effectively silenced their critics Wednesday as they explained why their bipartisan probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election must continue: Russia is continuing its efforts to destabilize democratic governments.

Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and vice chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) made it very clear that they are worried about elections this fall and in 2018, warning states to make sure voting systems are secure. “There needs to be a more aggressive whole-of-government approach in terms of protecting our electoral system,” Warner said.

The senators chided the Department of Homeland Security for dragging its heels for 11 months before notifying 21 states that the Russians had breached or tried to get into their systems. Both senators made clear, though, that vote counts were not tampered with.

However, Burr said the question of whether the Russians colluded with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump is still open. Trump has called such claims a hoax. That question won’t be answered by the Senate committee until the criminal investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller concludes. But there are some aspects of this unprecedented disruption to our political process that can be cleared up quickly.

Facebook, Twitter and Google shamefully admit they were unaware that their digital platforms were used by the Russians for disinformation and divisive ads. Then they took far too long to provide investigators with details about how it all happened. Facebook now has turned over more than 3,000 of these ads to Congress. The Senate committee has a policy of not releasing information it gathers, but several members said it was important that Facebook allow the American public to see the ads’ divisiveness. Until these companies show us what took place and the congressional investigations move forward, this nation will not be able to safeguard our electoral process.