Castro Remarks at Election Security Press Conference
- As Delivered - Click Here for Video -
Washington, D.C.– Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, today joined a press conference which called on House Republicans to uphold their oath of office and protect our elections at all levels of government:
“Thank you Congresswoman Lofgren. Thank you to my colleagues, and Steny Hoyer, for taking on this issue on behalf of the American people. I’m Joaquin Castro, Congressman from Texas, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Intelligence Committee. As you all know, today is a primary election day in Texas. We’re hosting the first primary in the nation. We know that Russia has already attacked our elections once and intends to attack again, this year and in subsequent years, unless we’re able to put a stop to it.
“The United states Intelligence community made this assessment in January of 2017. President Trump’s inner circle also made this assessment and warnings from people such as CIA Director Mike Pompeo, DNI Director Daniel Coats, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have been made. Unfortunately, for the most part, very little, if anything, has been done to secure our elections and our democracy. We must take the threat of future election interference seriously. Much more seriously than this administration, and this congress, have demonstrated this far.
“In July 2017 Congress passed, with bipartisan support, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This legislation provides President Trump with the authority to sanction Russia, and Russian entities associated with interfering with our election. But the president continues to blow past sanction’s implementation deadlines, not utilizing the tools that congress has made available to the president. We also know that Russia deployed social media bots to exploit political cleavages in our society around the election. These bots also peddled ‘pro-gun’ hashtags, after the Parkland shooting. So there is every indication that they’re not stopping. If anything, it’s intensified.
“Despite bipartisan support for allocating money to counter Russian propaganda, the State department has not a spent a single dollar to counter Russia’s influence. $120 million, left sitting there, with no action or movement at all. That’s why I wrote a letter with Rep. Ted Lieu yesterday to Secretary Tillerson, demanding answers for why this money has not been spent. Texas holds the nation’s first primary today as we kick of the 2018 primary season. Unfortunately for my home state we know for certain that Texas’s election system was probed in the 2016 election. Special Council Mueller’s indictment last month outlined Russian communication with a person affiliated with a Texas grassroots group during 2016 and tried to spread derogatory information about U.S. Senator Ted Cruz at that time when he was a top Trump contender. In Texas we should focus on replacing old voting machines with new, auditable systems, or even paper ballots and optical scanners, like ones that are currently used in 36 states. I should also say that many of us imagine a time when it will be much easier to vote, when automatic voter registration or online voter registration is the norm. And also perhaps a day when we can vote online. But unless we can counter these actions now, it’s impossible for our nation to move towards that future.
“Texas should fully partner with DHS to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments, cyber hygiene scans, and post-election risk limiting audits. Congress needs to step up and provide the resources to my state, and other states, to safeguard their voting infrastructure. For example, by appropriating $400 million, already authorized in law. In Texas we must safeguard our election infrastructure from foreign adversaries seeking to manipulate the outcome. We must also accurately depict the ballots casted by our voters. Republicans and Democrats alike have an obligation to protect our democracy at all levels of government. Not just in federal and state elections, but also in local and school board elections. We must fully fund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for this reason. I also ask Speaker Ryan that he pass legislation such as the Election Security Act and the Secure our Democracy Act that protects our election infrastructure, and sanctions entities abroad that seek to interfere in our elections and those of our allies.
“There is bipartisan consensus that Russia is actively seeking to undermine our upcoming elections. It is up to the president, and this congress, to stop them.”