Weekly Democratic Address
July 24, 2020
Hello. I’m Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
It was almost exactly four years ago that we first began to see evidence that Russia was interfering in our democracy and seeking to influence our elections. It was shocking and, at the time, unprecedented.
Directed by Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, Russian intelligence officers hacked Democratic emails and dumped them on the web to assist the Trump campaign. In addition, Kremlin-backed trolls in St. Petersburg used social media to stoke racial division, spread misinformation, damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and our democracy.
The lights were flashing red, then. And they are flashing red, now. The Russians are once again intent on interfering in our presidential election. They are likely to use some of the same tactics they used in 2016, but we must also be on guard for new efforts to influence the outcome this fall.
U.S. persons, including elected officials, may be a target of a foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder or amplify disinformation to affect our public debate, discourse and decision as to who should be the next President of the United States.
Notwithstanding the growing evidence of this threat, what is President Trump doing to discourage these efforts to meddle in our democratic affairs? I will tell you. Nothing. Not one thing, quite the contrary.
In the face of continued foreign interference, and with a President who refuses to do anything to stop it, how do we protect our democracy? How do we protect the bedrock principle of our constitutional compact that Americans decide American elections?
Here’s how: first, we deter foreign interference from any nation by exposing it and making it clear that there will be serious consequences for any who try to meddle. Second, we disrupt it by any means necessary. Third, we arm the American people with good information to help prevent the spread of lies and disinformation. And finally, we vote. We vote.
Because as significant as the threat of foreign interference is to our elections, there is something even more dangerous to the health of our democracy. And that is domestic efforts to prevent Americans from voting by closing down polling stations, limiting the days and time for voting, imposing deliberately burdensome voter ID requirements, purging voter rolls and discrediting, in advance, the votes of millions of Americans who must vote-by-mail during a pandemic.
For months now, President Trump has sought to undermine the votes of millions by casting doubt on a form of voting he uses himself, vote-by-mail. And the president knows exactly what he’s doing.
By suppressing the vote and seeking to disenfranchise people, he is trying to help himself, not the nation. By attacking vote-by-mail, by forcing people to choose between their health and their vote, he is trying to help himself, not the nation. And by seeking to discredit the results of our election before it even takes place, he’s trying to help himself, not the nation.
Doing all of these things and at the same time, Donald Trump may end up doing more damage than any foreign government could by refusing to accept the results of the election or allowing a peaceful transition of power. If this is his ambition, he will not succeed.
This week, we lost a pioneer, a leader and a giant on whose shoulders we all stand – Congressman John Lewis. His memory is a blessing to all of us, and must be a guiding light. He was the conscience of the Congress and, more than that, he was my friend.
And while we honor him with our words, we must also honor him with our action – by speaking up and speaking out, by fighting against voter suppression, by fighting for the right to vote for all Americans and by casting that vote.
The President may try to tear down our democracy, but we will build it up. And come November, we will make sure of one thing – that Americans decide American elections.