Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) defended Republicans’ recent decision to vote down additional funding for election security by spreading disinformation during an interview on CNN on Friday.
“What we also found out in all of this talk is that Russia wasn’t able to interfere with our elections,” said Barletta, who is currently running for Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-PA) seat, contradicting what intelligence chiefs publicly said just the day before.
“They’re trying,” host Alisyn Camerota interjected. “And in the midterms, they may succeed.”
“But Alisyn, if they’re not able to do it, why would you spend more money?” Barletta responded. “You wouldn’t do that at home. If you’re putting something in your home and it’s doing the job, why would you spend more money if what you have is succeeding? That doesn’t make sense.”
“We have a lot of places we can spend money, but putting more money to something that’s already working doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he added.
Less than 24 hours before Barletta’s comments on CNN, the nation’s top intelligence officials held a news briefing to warn that the threat of Russian interference in the midterm elections is “real” and “continuing.”
“Our focus here today is simply to tell the American people we acknowledge the threat. It is real. It is continuing. And we’re doing everything we can to have a legitimate election that the American people can have trust in,” said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Just a week ago, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) confirmed her office was targeted by hackers using techniques similar to the ones Russian hackers used to hack the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016. This week, Facebook announced it has removed two dozen pages for “inauthentic behavior.”
While the intelligence community tries to make clear that they are taking the prospect of Russian interference in the midterms seriously, President Trump — like Barletta — has tried to gaslight people about the threat.
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
In recent weeks, GOP majorities in both the House and Senate have blocked Democratic efforts to allocate more funds for election security. These moves came less than a month after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officials for hacking the DNC’s servers in 2015 and 2016, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) servers, and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. The indictment details how Russians hackers took cues from Trump’s public comments.
The stolen emails were then published by WikiLeaks as part of a pro-Trump propaganda campaign that Trump amplified at least 164 times during speeches in the final month of the campaign.
Barletta’s CNN interview came just hours after Trump stumped for him in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Trump’s nearly 90-minute speech was particularly unhinged, with the president at various points mimicking MS-13 stabbings and suggesting he may still lock up Hillary Clinton. He didn’t mention concerns about election security a single time.
During Barletta’s brief remarks at the rally, he said, “We want to take a knee to pray, and stand for the flag!”