Democrats call for action on Russian election meddling efforts in 2018

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, accompanied by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), speaks with reporters following the weekly policy luncheons at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2018.

Aaron Bernstein / REUTERS

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, are urging the Trump administration to show greater transparency and make stronger efforts in election integrity ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. They said in light of the recent indictments by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of 13 Russian nationals, now is the time to prevent future attempts of Russian meddling. 

On a call with reporters Wednesday, Schumer and Klobuchar urged Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to issue a public report detailing the ways in which Russia is currently working to influence the upcoming 2018 elections, which, Schumer said, would be "a means to helping election officials on the ground to develop the most effective preventative measures."

"The American people have a right to know what Russia or anyone else is trying to do to our elections," Schumer said. "These efforts start with transparency and information sharing."

In light of all the facts the intelligence community now has about Russia's 2016 efforts, Klobuchar said, "I don't think there is any question that we have to act when there are so few days until the next election."

 "A lot of people will be working to protect our elections come November and we think we need to get all the information we can out there," she added. 

Just last week, Coats along with other intelligence community heads, told Congress the U.S. as being "under attack" by those seeking to disrupt the nation's cybersecurity posture. Coats told lawmakers that Russia felt its past influence campaign had been "successful" and aims to use the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target. 

The senators also called on top U.S. intelligence officials to provide state and local election officials the tools, information and the funding they need to combat any potential Russian cyber threats. Klobuchar cited the need for better election equipment across the country to help prevent election tampering. 

"It is outdated, several of ours states don't have backup paper ballots if there was a hack," said Klobuchar.  She said many states have not updated their equipment for over 10 years, which she stated was known by the Russians. Klobuchar proposed $386 million for state grants for initiatives including backup auditing, and a designated person who can receive classified information in each state to prevent hacking attempts.

During the call Schumer also previewed a letter he is sending with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The two Democrats are urging Republican leadership to provide greater funding to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Election Assistance Commission which they hope will be included in the upcoming March 23 omnibus spending bill that is currently being drafted. 

The Democrats are seeking a $300 million increase in the FBI's 2018 budget request to give them more money to provide election security. Schumer said the agencies are in need of greater access to resources and information to prevent future attempts of election interference. 

"Put simply we have Russian operatives flooding our social media platforms with misinformation. We need both resources and manpower to expose and counter them and other foreign hostile actors," said Schumer. 

He added, "Both parties in Congress have united and stood up to Putin before. We need to do it again. We need to do it now."

Asked if Democrats plan to withhold votes or try to delay any omnibus bill that doesn't include their funding propsoals, Schumer said the party is not planning to draw any lines in the sand.

"We're going to push hard to get this funding and hope it'll get support from our Republican colleagues," said Schumer. He added, "The issue of our election integrity is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it's not a liberal or conservative issue, it's an American issue."

CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan contributed to this report. 

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital