Orlando’s U.S. Rep. Val Demings has joined a Republican and another Democrat in introducing a bill aimed at strengthening the United States’ defense against Russian interference in American elections.
The bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, and Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, would strengthen federal cybersecurity, support intelligence gathering, and enhance NATO military activities. It has been vetted by bipartisan national security experts, Demings office stated in a news release.
“When America takes on a bully, we should fight to win. I won’t sit in silence while a foreign dictator attacks our democracy and our citizens. Today, I’m introducing a bill to take clear steps to defend us from Russia’s uncontested aggression,” Demings stated in the release.
She cited a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that found that nearly seven in ten Americans support tougher sanctions against Russia. And she noted that 13 Russians and three Russian companies already have been indicted through the probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with evidence that Russia is continuing campaigns of disinformation, propaganda, and political and military pressure against U.S. allies and interests.
“American families deserve to know that their news is real, their power grid is secure, and their personal information won’t be stolen. Our allies deserve to know that America will respond strategically and strongly in their defense against aggression. All of us deserve a safe, free world—and the only way to get it is to stand up to the world’s dictators when they go on the offensive,” Demings added.
The bill declares that Russia has engaged in the spread of disinformation, aiming to undermine democracies including the United States. To combat Russian influence, the bill codifies the State Department’s Coordinator of Sanctions Office to oversee the diplomatic aspects of U.S. and U.N. sanctions with respect to Russia. The office was closed by the administration last year. according to the release.
In addition, it expresses that Executive Order 13800, issued by President Donald Trump last year to strengthen federal cybersecurity, should be implemented, according to the release. Finally, it directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct more NATO naval exercises in the Baltic and Black Sea and conduct joint research to enhance military capabilities to deter Russian aggression in those regions.
Demings, a retired Orlando police chief, serves on the House Judiciary Committee and on the Homeland Security Committee, and is a member of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security.
“It’s time to stand up for ourselves by securing our cyber-infrastructure, preventing malicious hacks, strengthening our intelligence-gathering, working with our allies to push back against Russian aggression, and investigating and shutting down the illicit funding streams that bankroll Putin and his cronies,” she added.
Lieu serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. Stefanik serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“Russia is an active adversary of the United States and this legislation aims to counter their ability to conduct information warfare on the American people,” Stefanik stated in the release. “As the chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and a Member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan bill to bolster our cyber defense and strengthen our partnership with NATO.”
In the release, Lieu added,“Russia is threatening our democracy. By refusing to act, the Trump Administration is allowing foreign adversaries using cutting-edge tools to sow discord and shift elections. Because we have yet to enact sufficient safeguards to protect our elections, we’re tolerating the actions of bad actors like Russia who want to chip away at our democracy. I’m grateful for Congresswoman Val Demings’ leadership on the Defend Against Russian Disinformation Act. With this bill, our government will be empowered to take considerable steps—including enforcing sanctions and strengthening federal cybersecurity standards—to defend our institutions and fight Russian disinformation.”
Their Defend Against Russian Disinformation Act relies heavily on the work of a Council of Foreign Relations report by Robert Blackwill, from the administration of President George W. Bush, and Philip Gordon, who worked for the administration of President Barack Obama, the release stated.