In early December, the Protecting Our Democracy Act which was introduced to establish a 12-member bipartisan independent National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election is expected to be reintroduced under the new Congress.
The commission, which would examine attempts by the Russian government and similar efforts by any other foreign governments or entities and others to use electronic means to influence, interfere with or sow distrust in the 2016 US elections, would issue a final report with recommendations for future security protections to Congress and the President within 18 months of the bill’s enactment. The committee would be empowered to interview witnesses, obtain documents, issue subpoenas and receive public testimony.
Josh Richman, Communications Director for Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), ranking member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who introduced the bill, told Homeland Security Today the legislation “will be re-introduced in first few days of 115th Congress with more cosponsors, hopefully including some Republicans; Swalwell and Cummings continue to work relationships across the aisle.”
When the bill was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, there were no co-sponsors other than Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“This past election, the principles of our democracy were attacked,” Swalwell said when the bill was first announced. “We owe it to our constituents to defend the integrity of our representative democracy, starting with finding out what exactly happened and how we prevent it from ever happening again. While our intelligence agencies have concluded with high confidence that Russia meddled in America’s elections, to what degree and whether other state or non-state actors were involved remains unresolved. Americans of all political parties are rightfully worried and deserve answers. To protect our democracy, we are calling for a fact-based, independent, bipartisan-appointed commission on foreign interference in the 2016 election.”
“Regardless of whether you voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else, Russia’s attacks on our election are an attempt to degrade our democracy and should chill every American—Democratic, Republican, or Independent—to the core,” Cummings said. “This commission will conduct a truly bipartisan and comprehensive review of these attacks and offer specific recommendations to prevent future attacks on our electoral process.”
According to the initial announcement of the bill bySwalwell and Cummings, “The scope of the commission’s investigation would include computer hacking activity that targeted the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta and former Secretary of State Colin Powell; the scanning of electoral systems in Arizona, Illinois and Florida; and efforts by any foreign entity to produce, disseminate or promote fake news involving the US election.
The 12 members of the commission would be appointed within 90 days of enactment by the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, House Minority Leader and Senate Minority Leader, and the commission would choose a chair and vice chair of different parties. No federal officers or employees would be eligible to serve on the commission, and appointees would be prominent US citizens with national recognition and significant depth of experience in governmental service, law enforcement, armed services, law, public administration, intelligence gathering, foreign affairs, cybersecurity and federal elections.