Hurd on the Hill: Russia is a threat

We can’t fall into their trap of eroding trust in our democratic institutions

By U.S. Representative Will Hurd – TX23

Here’s something you won’t hear on cable news: Special Counsel Robert Mueller, our intelligence community and Republicans and Democrats in Congress all agree that Russia is a threat. For over two years in Congress, I’ve fought for my friends in the intelligence community as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Russia has been a primary focus of the Committee’s work because of repeated and persistent attempts by Vladimir Putin to challenge international norms and undermine the United States and our allies. There’s no question that the Russians have meddled in our elections and will only continue to do so. Russia has one goal: to erode trust in our democratic institutions – between the American people and our intelligence services, between our intelligence services and our legislative branch, between our legislative branch and our executive branch.

However, as you may know, media coverage of the Special Counsel’s investigation has not focused on getting to the bottom of how Russia meddled in our election and how we prevent this from happening ever again. Two years ago, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence found no collusion or conspiracy between Russia and the President or his campaign. For two years, Robert Mueller’s independent investigation left no stone unturned, costing $25 million, employing 19 attorneys and 40 FBI agents, issuing 2,800 subpoenas, executing nearly 500 search warrants and interviewing approximately 500 witnesses – and came to the same conclusion that there was no collusion.

For the last 22 months, the Intelligence Community has been the subject of unprecedented controversy and abuse – because some of its own senior most leaders failed in their professional duties and abused their power, and because some members of Congress abused their position to feed speculation, innuendo and conspiracies, without evidence, into the minds of the American public. Russia continues to erode our democracy by exploiting our nation’s divisions, and continuing this partisan bickering only provides more fuel to the fire started by Putin’s covert influence campaign. We can’t fall into their trap of eroding trust in our democratic institutions and must instead work together to create a strategy to counter Russia’s covert influence operations.

I spent nine and a half years as an undercover officer in the CIA during the Global War on Terror. My job was to stop bad people from doing bad things in our homeland. Part of my job while serving in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India was to brief members of Congress on our intelligence operations, and I was alarmed by the lack of knowledge our Congressional leaders had on these important issues impacting the safety of the American people. I couldn’t sit there and allow this problem to continue – I needed to do something about it. That’s when I decided to leave a job I loved and was good at to help our intelligence community in a different way – as a member of Congress. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure our adversaries cannot undermine trust in our democratic institutions and are held accountable for their actions.