Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul contended earlier this week that many nations, including the United States, seek to meddle in other countries’ elections, which is well-illustrated by a Time magazine cover from the 1990s when the U.S. sought to sway the outcome of a Russian political race.
In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Paul said cyber-intrusions into other countries’ elections are common.
“We all do it. What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected,” Paul said. “They’re not going to admit it in the same way we’re not going to admit we were involved in the Ukrainian elections or the Russian elections.”
Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer the following day, “But I would put this in perspective. Dov Levin looked at this from the Carnegie Mellon Institute and he looked at it from 1946 to 2000. And he found 81 times that the U.S. involved themselves and meddled in elections of foreign countries 36 more times than the Soviet Union did.”
“It doesn’t make it right, but I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again,” he added. “Any country that can spy does and any country that can meddle in foreign elections does. All countries are doing this.”
A 1996 Time cover highlights how Americans sought to swing the outcome of Russia’s election that year.
“Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win,” the cover reads.
Yeltsin was first elected president of Russia following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
As the country struggled to transition from a communist to a capitalist economy, Yeltsin’s popularity fell, placing his re-election in 1996 in jeopardy. Shortly before the election it appeared Yeltsin’s Communist Party rival, Gennadi Zyuganov, could win.
“For four months, a group of American political consultants clandestinely participated in guiding Yeltsin’s campaign,” Time reported.
Their activities included polling, focus groups, negative ads “and all other technique of American campaigning to help Boris Yeltsin win.”
Among the advisers were key President Bill Clinton campaign aides, with then-campaign consultant Dick Morris, acting as a conduit to the White House.
Clinton himself endorsed a $10.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund in the midst of the election season, which Yeltsin used to bolster his popularity, using it for social spending and the payment of back wages and pensions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Guardian’s Owen Jones recounted that Yeltsin ran an unscrupulous campaign, which helped precipitate the rise of Vladimir Putin’s regime a few short years later.
The United States has intervened in the elections of several other nations, including Israel’s in 2015.
The Obama administration’s State Department sent $350,000 in U.S. taxpayer money to the Israeli group OneVoice. The group turned around and used the money to build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to then-President Obama’s campaign, The Washington Times reported.
These activities all set the stage for an anti-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaign, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations documented in a bi-partisan report.
Owens chronicled other times the U.S. has intervened in efforts to determine the leadership of other countries, including Italy in 1948, Iran in 1953, Chile in 1973 and Honduras in 2009.
Trump stated on Tuesday that he accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia did meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections but argued their actions were not determinative in the final results.
“While Russia’s actions had no impact on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear: I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said. “There was no collusion at all.”
The intelligence community did not find evidence of Russia hacking into the actual voting systems in the United States.
Paul believes the country’s primary focus should continue to be on protecting the votes cast.
He told Blitzer, “What I would say instead of making this about everything’s about Trump and accusing Trump of collusion with the Russians and all this craziness, that’s not true, we should try to protect the integrity of our elections.”
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