Speed Reads


Obama chief of staff says Mitch McConnell single-handedly 'watered down' pre-election Russia warning

On Sunday's Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Denis McDonough, former President Barack Obama's second-term chief of staff, about comments former Vice President Joe Biden made accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of preventing Obama from issuing a robust warning about Russian election interference in 2016 for political reasons. McDonough did not go as far as Biden had, but he said that McConnell, and only McConnell, had "dramatically watered down" a statement Obama had drafted to urge states to work with the feds to protect their election systems.

"The lack of urgency that we saw from the Republican leadership in 2016, we continue to see to this day," McDonough said. "It's beyond time for Congress to work with the administration, to work with the states, to ensure that our electoral systems are ready to go. This is not a game."

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart responded, "Give me a break," pointing to a Washington Post op-ed McDonough had written in July 2017 laying out why Obama had sought bipartisan imprimatur on the appeal to states and saying that while "this bipartisan outreach was harder and more time-consuming than it needed to be," it "was ultimately successful," convincing 33 states to use "Homeland Security tools to scan or strengthen their systems." McConnell had questioned the intelligence assessment that Russia was meddling in the election and insisted that references to Russia be changed to "malefactors," The New York Times reported last year.