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Rubio on Passing Bipartisan DETER Act: Russian Meddling Will Happen If We Do Not Deter it From Happening

Jul 17, 2018 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor today calling on Congress to pass his bipartisan Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, legislation that sends a powerful message to any foreign actor seeking to disrupt our elections: if you attack American candidates, campaigns, or voting infrastructure, you will face severe consequences. The DETER Act, which continued to build momentum this week, was introduced by Rubio and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) earlier this year.
Last week, Rubio and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) outlined how they are teaming up with legislators from Canada and Europe to sound the alarm of Russian meddling in foreign elections. This month, Rubio encouraged Florida’s Secretary of State and 67 Supervisors of Elections to take advantage of the resources offered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to protect its election infrastructure from hostile foreign governments’ interference. In 2016, Russian government actors actively targeted Florida’s – and the nation’s – election systems.
A partial and rough transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below:
But we are going to have an election in a few months, and we’re going to continue to have elections every two years, hopefully forever, and there is no reason to believe that they will not try to do this again.
And that is why earlier this year, along with Senator Van Hollen, I proposed the DETER Act, which is the only thing that Vladimir Putin understands is deterrence. And what the DETER Act does is it says here is a list of sanctions, and these sanctions will go into effect immediately if the Director of National Intelligence, after intelligence assessment, determines that Russia is once again interfering in our elections. So that before he even does it, he has a very clear understanding of what the price is going to be. Men like Vladimir Putin operate as cost-benefit analyzers. They weigh the costs against the benefits, and then they decide what action to take.
And there’s no doubt that in 2016 he saw that the costs of what he did were very low. He thought he could hide it. He thought by the time it was figured out, it would be too late and he thought that America would be in such disarray, that it couldn’t get its act together and actually impose any additional sanctions. But he saw the benefits as extraordinary and so he took action, and he’ll do it again if he doesn’t think the costs are high enough.
And so my hope is that over the next few days and short period of time we will figure out a way, working together as Americans, on this issue to set aside all the stuff about yesterday –  that probe will continue, our work on the Intelligence Committee will continue – and focus on the future. No matter how you feel about 2016, who among us would say that if Russia interferes in 2018, or any year for that matter, they shouldn’t be punished? And who among us would say that if we had the opportunity to put into law strong consequences for interference that could deter such an attack, we wouldn’t want to do it? And so that’s why I hope that no matter how you may feel about the other things that are going on, the Senate can come together and work together to pass this law, because otherwise we are leaving our nation vulnerable.
And I’ll close with something I said back in October of 2016. And that is, Vladimir Putin is not a Republican and he’s not a Democrat. He’s not a conservative and he’s not a liberal. Do not ascribe to him any of the attributes of American politics.
He interfered in 2016 in order to create chaos and controversy, not to elect any particular party or individual. That was by far his strongest motivator. And he’ll do it again. And I believe if left unchecked he’ll target members of the Senate who he thinks are his opponents. He’ll target members of Congress. Eventually he’ll even target our debates outside of elections.
I believe if left unchecked, they’re going to take the next step and not just leak information, they’re going to make it up. They’re going to come up with nine emails that are real and embed a tenth that is fake, and it’s going to be reported, and it might cost someone their election or might cost someone enough heartache that they have to resign.
Information is a very powerful weapon. You’ve already seen if you go online the ability to produce these deepfake videos that look real, that only an expert could tell are fake, of someone saying or doing something they never did. Imagine in the hands of a nation-state leaked two days before an election. They’re going to do these things. It is going to happen if we do not deter it from happening. And if we do not prepare our nation and the American people, and if you think this is chaotic, then allow that to happen without informing us and preparing us and strengthening us and putting in place deterrents against that. Then you will know chaos – a chaos that will shake us to our core.

And so I hope that we can take this small but important step of coming together as Americans and protecting our elections for years to come against an adversary that’s determined to tear us down in order to build himself up. This is reality, this is the world and the threat we face, and the sooner we address it, the safer our nation and our people will be.