Washington Review, July 20, 2018
This week, the President met with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki despite ongoing confirmations by the Intelligence Community that Russia has and will likely continue to target American elections. In Washington, I spoke with local business owners at the Indian Business Association and met constituents who work with ACCSES NJ. Later, I attended a Subcommittee hearing on hurricane and disaster recovery and held a number of meetings.
Just three days after twelve Russian intelligence operatives were indicted for sustained efforts to influence the 2016 elections, the President met with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Putin continued to deny any interference, directly contradicting findings of the U.S. Intelligence Community. I believe the President’s silence on this matter is deafening and it is completely unacceptable that the President refuses to acknowledge the results of his own intelligence agencies. In my opinion, legitimizing Putin’s denial and refusing to name him as the dangerous adversary that he is, is extremely troubling.
Additionally, the President failed to unequivocally deny Russia’s request to interrogate former American Ambassador Michael McFaul. Requests such as these not only jeopardize the individual safety of our public servants, but also undermine the hard work of our diplomatic corps, and weakens our country on the international stage. Ambassador McFaul is an American patriot who dedicated his life to public service and shed light on Russia’s human rights abuses while working as our Ambassador in Moscow. By Thursday, the White House had walked-back the President’s apparent openness to Putin’s offer after facing intense scrutiny from national security experts.
In my view, the fact that our Commander in Chief seems vulnerable to foreign influence is very dangerous and jeopardizes the security of our nation. I am extremely concerned by the President’s inability to distinguish friends from foes. Furthermore, by continuously rebuking the conclusion of our Intelligence Community that Russia meddled in America’s elections, I feel that the President discredits all the work and dedication these individuals put into keeping our country safe. Senior intelligence officials have testified on numerous occasions that U.S. elections will likely be a future target for Russian interference and the Administration needs to be doing more to protect our democracy.
The protection of our democratic infrastructure as well as our public servants is a non-partisan mission that must be given the highest priority. However, I am under the impression that the Majority does not take the Russian threat seriously since the fiscal year (FY) 2019 minibus, which passed the House by a vote of 217 to 199, stripped funding for Election Assistance Commission (EAC) grants to help states secure election infrastructure. This program had previously received $380 million in funding in the FY 2018 omnibus. A last-ditch effort by Rep. Quigley (D-IL) to restore funding for these crucial grants did not garner enough support and ultimately failed in the House by a vote of 182 to 232. I hope that the Senate will address this issue in the FY 2019 minibus appropriations bill and restore this critical funding to the EAC.
Congress must provide states with the resources necessary to implement updates that will secure our election equipment, which is why I have cosponsored H.R. 5011, the Election Security Act. This bill would authorize Election Assistance Commission (EAC) grants to assist states in securing election infrastructure, provide funding for maintenance, and require regular threat assessments. This legislation would also allow for greater threat sharing between state and federal officials.
The 2017 hurricane season produced devastating storms that wreaked destruction on parts of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management held a hearing on disaster recovery and examined how lessons learned from the 2017 hurricane season can be used to respond to the 2018 hurricane season. Experts reviewed the federal disaster assistance programs that are currently available.
This week, I had the opportunity to speak with local business leaders and representatives from the Indian American community at an event hosted by the Indian Business Association (IBA). The IBA does important work to support the Indian American community and dedicates itself to advocating for civil rights and social justice. Later, I spoke with constituents and representatives of ACCSES NJ about the importance of creating greater workforce accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
I also welcomed representatives of the Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce to hear about their experiences as Americans working abroad and how we can best promote U.S. business overseas.
Finally, I met with students from the Close Up program to discuss my experience in public service and the importance of education for immigrants.
Thank you for reading the Washington Review. Again, hearing from my constituents enables me to be a better representative of the 8th District. For regular updates, you may stay in touch by leaving comments on my Facebook, Twitter, and website.