Sen. Ben Sasse is a member of one of the committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he’s more worried about the upcoming congressional midterms and beyond.
“We need to know a lot more about 2016. But the thing that keeps me up at night is 2018 and 2020” the Nebraska Republican said in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep Friday morning. “We know what the Russians are trying to do. We know that the technology around info-ops is getting better and better.”
“Here’s what I think comes next: I think you’re going to start seeing data leaks in the 2018 and 2020 cycle that’ll be Steve Inskeep’s credit card records,” Sasse told the host as if he was a hypothetical candidate. “And it’ll be 93 percent real stuff, and 7 percent fabrications.”
“So it will all be very plausible because you were in this city at that time, and you were away from work for this travel, and you did x, y and z,” Sasse explained. “But then 7 percent of the credit card records will be, ‘Why are you buying so much clothes at a women’s clothing store in Chattanooga? That’s weird Steve, your wife isn’t in Chattanooga.’”
Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the data leaks would be a “drip, drip, drip” of information eroding the public’s trust in its officials and its institutions.
“We should be losing sleep about that now, before it starts happening, because Russia’s doing this stuff to their neighbors now and the technology is going to get better and better,” Sasse said.
“Putin’s main goal is not the election of one candidate or another. But it’s to make Americans distrust each other,” Sasse said. “And he’s winning right now.”
Sasse sits on the Judiciary panel, which has a subcommittee investigating Russian interference in 2016. But the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting the main investigation, since the committee has access to classified intelligence. The leaders of the Intelligence committee have raised similar concerns about Russian attempts to meddle in the 2018 congressional elections and the 2020 presidential race.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who chairs the committee, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., have not set a deadline for their investigation. But asked in March if their investigation would need to be completed before 2018, to better counteract additional Russian interference, Warner said, “We sure hope so.”