A house hearing on election security grew contentious on Tuesday as the Oversight and Government Reform committee questioned a quartet of government officials about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) stated in his opening remarks that the objective of the morning’s hearing was to “explore ways to ensure no vote count is ever affected and to discuss how to protect our entire election process from start to finish.”
What followed the chair’s statement was a partisan standoff in which Democrats rallied to castigate President Trump and Republicans sought to clarify the extent of Russia’s election interference.
After the witnesses had delivered their statements, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) moved to subpoena Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to testify before the committee. Connolly argued that the public deserved to hear from Coats, stating that “closed door briefings are simply not a substitute for public testimony from the top federal intelligence official.” While the motion was tabled due to lack of a quorum, it inspired strong words from several of the committee’s Democrats.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) delivered a dramatic speech in which he lamented Congress’s decisions to hold only two hearings on Russian interference and the Republicans’ “effort … to rally around the President, even when he is wrong.”
It’s time for Republicans in Congress to decide what they stand for. Do they stand for democracy? Or do they stand with Vladimir Putin? Do they stand for the right of the people to have an honest election? I understand there are sometimes gray issues. But this is black and white. pic.twitter.com/qYkvCYbcHX
— Rep. Stephen Lynch (@RepStephenLynch) July 24, 2018
Though the hearing’s stated purpose was to hear from experts regarding ways to improve election security, the topic of the President’s comments continued to resurface. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) even brought up a tweet that President Trump had sent just minutes after the hearing had begun.
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018
As the Democrats pilloried the President, Republicans questioned witnesses regarding the state of foreign interference. When Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) asked if “any cyber activity … influenced any vote totals,” Under Secretary Christopher Krebs of the Department of Homeland Security stated that he had no reason to believe foreign actors had accessed “vote-tallying systems.”
While the committee has announced no further election hearings, a pair of Senate committees have revealed plans to hold a series of six hearings on Russia.