For Donald Trump, the prospect of impeachment over the allegations of a conspiracy between his campaign and Russian hackers regarding interference in the 2016 presidential election has been a specter looming large over the first two years of his presidency. This specter has been, at least for now, dismissed: Robert Mueller, special counsel over the investigation into this interference, did not recommend a verdict on the results, instead sending his report to General Attorney William Barr, who decided to not press any charges against the president.
Barr has become embroiled in his own controversy regarding the legitimacy behind this claim and the question of whether he misrepresented the results of the Mueller report. Yet a more pressing concern, perhaps, looms in the form of next year’s presidential election – specifically, the renewed possibility of Russian interference.
Government officials have already determined that Russia, rather than be deterred by the then-ongoing investigation into its interference in 2016, did in fact interfere again in the 2018 midterm elections. This interference came mainly in the form of disinformation via social media, yet seems to have gotten very little attention in comparison to Russian meddling in the 2016 election – this being in spite of providing as an alarming a message.
The Russian activity in 2018 suggests that the country will not be stopped by US warnings or attempts to stop its interference, much less a related investigation into it. A reasonable assumption can thus be made regarding potential activity in 2020 as well; indeed, signs of a disinformation campaign have already been reported. While a link between this campaign and Russia has yet to be fully established, the campaign does share remarkable characteristics with previous attempts in 2016 and 2018, such as involving some of the same accounts as in the 2018 election.
This threat of Russian interference is a frightening one – more so due to the fact that it will now be the third time since 2016 that a foreign actor will be asserting itself in American politics. This pattern will only continue to grow without further attempts to stop Russian meddling: attempts that the president, who himself received much help from Russia (whether directly or indirectly) has been reluctant to indulge.
In part, this problem can be solved by Americans taking it upon themselves to closely monitor the media they consume on sites like Facebook or Twitter. Russian propaganda can be hidden even in plain sight – take Trump’s allies and family members, for example, many of whom either knowingly or unknowingly retweeted content from Russian agents. Companies like Facebook can also do their part to eliminate fake news and other sources of disinformation that could be utilized by other countries seeking to interfere in future elections. Yet the biggest commitment will have to come, again, from the government itself. Whether it be the reluctant Donald Trump or a new president in 2021, it is clear that the United States of America must act against all attempts by any other countries, Russia and others, to influence its political proceedings. American politics, by its very nature, is exclusive to the American people. We must fight to keep that right.
Brandon Kim, Grade 10
Culver City High School