The Trump administration is working to ensure that Russia does not meddle in American elections as it did in the past, the White House said on Thursday.
The US intelligence agencies believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections won by President Donald Trump. However, Russia has denied the allegations.
The White House believes that the threat from Russia still exists.
“The president and his administration are working very hard to make sure that Russia is unable to meddle in our elections, as they have done in the past, and as we have stated,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at her daily news conference.
“But we certainly believe that we are taking steps to make sure they can’t do it again.
Unlike the previous administrations, this president is actually taking bold action and reform to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But he does believe that they would target, certainly, US elections again,” Sanders said.
From the beginning of his administration, Trump has actually taken action to defend US election system from meddling and interference, she said.
In May 2017, Trump signed an executive order to strengthen and review the cybersecurity of the US and its critical infrastructure.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken the lead in working with all the 50 states, local governments and private companies to improve election security.
The DHS has increased coordination among all election partners, 34 states, 52 counties and local governments and five election companies receive cybersecurity scans regularly from the DHS, she said.
The DHS plans to provide on-site risk and vulnerability assessments to all states that request it. So far, 18 states have requested this assessment.
A new pilot programme was launched to increase rapid response capabilities on the Election Day, and in 2017, on-site cybersecurity support was provided.
In March, Congress provided the Election Assistance Commission with USD 380 million in funding for election assistance grants to states.
“These are steps that we’ve taken to prevent it from happening. These are steps that we’ve taken because we see that there’s a threat there,” Sanders said.
In her first news conference after the Helsinki meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sanders accused the media of going hysterical on issues relating to it.
It shows frankly the outrageousness and the just desire to find the negative in everything that this President does, she said.
“Just because that somebody was simply red-headed, they were accused of being some sort of spy for Russia. I think that this has gotten totally out of control. You guys need to take a little bit of a step back, slow down and quit going after the Trump administration on every single thing that takes place,” Sanders said.
Trump, she said, thinks that the US has to focus on securing its election integrity and election systems. This is the reason why he has spent so much time with his administration making sure that this doesn’t happen again.
“Let’s not forget that this didn’t happen under President Trump’s watch, this happened under the Obama administration. We’re taking steps, we’re making bold reforms to try to fix this and make sure it never happens again because we take it seriously and because we recognise that our election systems are incredibly important and is certainly a cornerstone of our democracy,” the presidential advisor said.
The Trump administration, she said, is trying a new approach on its relationship with Russia.
Trump discussed some of these things directly, face-to-face with Putin, she said.
“The president also sees this as an opportunity, as he said many times, to be able to work with Russia. He recognises the fact that 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons are under the direction of the US and Russia,” she said.
He thinks it’s a good thing to get along with the other person that controls that much of the nuclear arsenal across the globe. He wants to create a more stable world, a more peaceful world.
“We can’t do that if we can’t get along with Russia in some capacity,” she said.
At the same time, the administration has called him out.
“We’ve been tough. We’ve approached this in a totally different fashion than has been previously done, because what’s been done in the past hasn’t worked, so we’re trying a new approach.
“But to act like he hasn’t been tough on Russia, that he hasn’t called them out is simply not true, and it simply completely changes everything that this administration has done in regards to that country,” Sanders added.