Politics

Portman, Brown Call for Election Security Following Mueller Testimony

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown called for beefing up election security following testimony by former special counsel Robert Mueller during two congressional hearings Wednesday.

Mueller, who was hired to look into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, warned of ongoing efforts to intervene in the 2020 election as he testified about the report his office released earlier this year.

The former FBI director, who frequently referred participants in the two hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives to the report, defended the integrity of the investigation, which President Donald Trump has referred to as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax,” and called Trump’s embrace of WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign “beyond problematic.”

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious,” Mueller said in his prepared statement before his testimony.

Responding to a request for comment, Emmalee Kalmbach, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the senator supported the Mueller investigation and accepted Mueller’s conclusions as well as those of Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“He believes the investigation is over, and our focus should be on stopping the threat of election interference from Russia and others in the future,” she continued.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, agreed that the focus needs to be on securing U.S. elections from future outside interference, and called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “take the bipartisan election security bill that was passed out of committee out of his legislative graveyard and pass it.”

The former FBI director “made clear in his report that a foreign government attacked our elections,” Brown said. “Our security is bigger than any one political party, and Republicans and Democrats need to come together and do what it takes to protect our institutions.”

Brad Parscale, campaign manager for Trump’s reelection campaign, called the hearings “a disaster for Democrats” in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

“This entire spectacle has always been about the Democrats trying to undo the legitimate result of the 2016 election and today they again failed miserably,” Parscale said. He added that Mueller confirmed there was “no collusion, no obstruction” and that the way Trump has been treated is “unprecedented.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, renewed his call for the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Ryan emphasized that the Mueller report did not — as the president has claimed — exonerate him.

“We heard that clearly and concisely from Robert Mueller, and no matter what the president tweets, that is the truth,” Ryan said in a statement.

“Today’s hearing underscores one thing: we need to immediately start impeachment hearings,” he continued. “President Trump obstructed justice on more than one occasion, and Congress has a constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight of the Executive Branch. Actions have consequences. No one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.”

Unlike Ryan, Brown is not calling for impeachment, said Jennifer Donohue, his communications director. “He believes the best way to get President Trump out of office is to focus on beating him in 2020.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson echoed the Trump campaign, stating that Mueller said “nothing new” during the hearing.

“If anything, these hearings served as a pointed reminder of how compromised this investigation was from the very beginning – several of the lawyers on Robert Mueller’s team supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign financially, and a few of them were bold enough to text and email about their strong dislike of Donald Trump,” Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said in a statement.

“Maybe this will finally be the end in the House Democrats’ effort to find something, anything, they can use against President Trump. The ‘collusion delusion’ has been over for some time now to all except Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, and their band of conspiracy theorists,” Johnson said.

He called on the Democratic majority in the House to “move onto more serious issues” such as “identifying the individual(s) who started this hoax, hold them accountable, and begin working on legislation that would have a meaningful, positive impact on the lives of the American people rather than wasting time on rehearsed made-for-television-drama hearings with no substance.”

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.