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Shaheen: Russian Election Meddling Remains Big Concern

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Testimony from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in front of Congress on Wednesday elicited strong reactions across the aisle this week.

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen spoke with Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley about her thoughts on the hearings.

Below is a transcript from the NHPR interview with New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Sen., both Democrats and Republicans went in with their agendas on Wednesday. What did Democrats gain, if anything?

Well, I thought it was important for the American people to hear directly from the special counsel. And one of the things he reiterated several times was the fact that Russia interfered in our election, that people in this country should be aware of that, [and] that it wasn't just in 2016. They tried to do it again in 2018. And they are doing it again in preparation for 2020. And we need to be prepared. We need to take every measure that we can to ensure that they don't influence the outcome of American elections.

Do you feel like your colleagues really heard that message?

Well, I certainly think that we have bipartisan legislation in the Senate to try and provide for more secure elections. Unfortunately, it's been blocked by Majority Leader McConnell – the effort to try and get those bills to the floor and pass them.

Do you still have some unanswered questions after Mueller's testimony?

If you've read the report, I think it's pretty clear that, as I said, Russia interfered in the elections [and] that the president was not exonerated in their report. There are serious questions still raised about his efforts to interfere with the investigation and other concerns about the way this president has operated. I think there will continue to be hearings and briefings in Congress to take a look at what happened and try and make sure it doesn't happen again.

You know, the fact is that the investigation led to 37 indictments – and again, this came out very clearly when Robert Mueller testified – 37 indictments, seven guilty pleas or convictions. It identified more than 100 secret meetings that linked Russia to the Trump Organization and 10 instances of obstruction or interference with the investigation. So those are serious allegations, serious findings. And we need to continue to, as I said, ensure that Russia doesn't interfere in the 2020 elections and that we take every step to make sure that happens, and that we don't allow candidates or public officials to engage with foreign countries who are trying to interfere in our democracy.

But do you still feel that pursuing impeachment does not make sense? I know you've said in the past it doesn't.

I do. I think we need to continue to investigate the charges. But I think at this time there is not a consensus to move forward with impeachment proceedings.

Sen. Shaheen, a federal task force has been set up to address Russian meddling in the 2020 election. What do you feel remains to be done to ensure election safety? What are the steps that need to happen?

There is funding that has been available to states to try and make sure that we secure the apparatus of our elections, and I think that needs to continue to go forward. In New Hampshire, we have paper ballot backups for all voters. So that's very important.

But I think the piece that has gotten less attention but is maybe more insidious is the effort to spread disinformation, to try and divide the American people against candidates on issues that come up in the campaign. And one of the things that we need to do is to make people aware that this is going on and who they should trust when they're looking at where they get their information. So just because you get something online, you need to check out who's sharing that information. Make sure it's coming from a real source, from someone you trust, from a real news organization. And it's not coming from some bot that's located in Ukraine, or Moldova or someplace in Russia that is spreading disinformation.

But from a legislative standpoint, what can the government do to ensure that? I mean, obviously there's a lot of free speech issues there.

There are, but one of the things that we need to do is we need to continue to talk about this, to use the bully pulpit to say that this is going on. It's unfortunate that the president continues to deny Russian interference in our elections. We need to make sure that we let our schools know. I think this is one of the things that as we look at how do we engage civically in this country, how do we become continue to be good citizens, making sure that we have information from credible sources is a critical piece of that.

And there are efforts that are going on in other countries to try and address making sure that people are aware of where they're getting their information. We need to look at some of those efforts that have been successful and see how we can incorporate those in the United States. We need to look at what has worked here in terms of educating people about what to look for and what to be careful about as they're getting their information. So I think there are a lot of things that we ought to be talking about so that people are aware that this is an ongoing concern.

You're running for re-election next year and two Republicans have already come forward to challenge you – Bill O'Brien and Don Bolduc. What's your message to voters this time around as you're seeking a third term in the Senate?

That we have a lot of unfinished work and that we need to continue to make sure that people can get health care. We need to lower prescription drugs. Sadly, what we've seen from the Republicans is that they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They don't want to help people get health care. We need to make sure that we continue to have support for those people fighting the opioid epidemic. We need to continue to create good jobs for people and ensure that we have a strong economy, that we can address our national security, support our veterans. We have a whole list of things that we're still working on that I've been working very hard since I got to Washington to try and address, and I hope to continue to be able to do that. It's been a great honor serving the people of New Hampshire.

Now, your challengers, though, have already aligned you with, you know, a more left leaning Democratic Party platform. Some going so far as to call you a socialist. Many opponents in local elections are also trying to align Republicans with Donald Trump. Do you think that kind of nationalizing of the race is a good strategy for either side?

I think people are [going to] make a determination based on who they think is going to work hard for the people of New Hampshire [and] who's been able to deliver results. And that's what I've tried to do. That's what I'm going to continue to try and do. I've worked hard to support our small businesses in New Hampshire to encourage job creation from the time I was governor. And I will continue to do that. I've worked hard to ensure that our small businesses get into international markets and to try and make sure that people can get health care, that we lower the cost of prescription drugs. So I think people are going to make decisions based on those kinds of issues, not based on nationalizing this election. There are some continued attacks that the president and Republicans make against Democrats.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR. She manages the station's news magazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can email her at mmcintyre@nhpr.org.

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