Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blamed the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government — not Democrats and their news media partners — for American political divisions in the wake of 2016’s presidential election related to what he described as Russia’s “election interference efforts.”
Rubio offered his remarks during a Monday panel discussion in Washington, DC, hosted by the Atlantic Council alongside Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).
Rubio said, “This was an effort to have happen what has happened, which is an America that, two years after the election, is still having this issue dominate and divide us. This was their goal. This was the primary objective of Vladimir Putin — was to sow permanent instability in American society and political culture so that we’re so busy fighting each other we don’t have time to take him on as a threat.”
Rubio expressed certainty over his assertions of “election interference” when asked if he had “any doubt in [his] mind about the interference.”
Rubio stated, “I never had any doubt. … I believe it will happen again, whether it’s in ‘18 or twenty years in the future, I don’t think this is the last time we’re going to deal with these issues, and in fact, [Russia] is going to get better at it.”
Rubio suggested Russian state-driven “disinformation” efforts had bent American voters’ political views, warning that such campaigns are a threat.
Rubio claimed, “One thing the Russians have done in other countries in the past is, they’re put out incomplete information, altered information, and/or fake information, and if it’s done strategically, it can impact the outcome of [an election].”
Rubio added, “Imagine producing a video that has me or Senator Warner saying something we never said on the eve of an election, by the time I’ve proved that video is fake — even though it looks real — it’s too late. That’s already happening. People are doing it for fun with off-the-shelf technology; imagine in the hands of a nation-state.”
At no point did Rubio comment on “fake news” or “disinformation” disseminated by domestic news media outlets.
Rubio critiqued President Donald Trump’s Monday joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. He said, “What the president said today is not accurate,” alleging that the “intelligence community has assembled probably an unparalleled amount of evidence in response to the Russian efforts to interfere in 2016.”
#Helsinki & subsequent reaction showed #Putin achieved goals of interference:
1. Weaken next President with nagging & persistent allegations;
2. Weaken public confidence in our political parties,media & govt agencies; &
3. Weaken U.S. by inflaming partisan & cultural divisions
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 17, 2018
#Putin’s interference in 2016 didn’t elect Trump & it doesn’t mean we don’t deal with him on other issues. But we can’t afford to forget he always exploits weakness. If we don’t acknowledge & punish what he did,his next attack on us will be bolder,more brazen & far more damaging.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 16, 2018
Warner said, “We know that Russians and their agents manipulated social media ways that literally [contacted] hundreds of millions of Americans with mostly fake information distributed by fake accounts.”
Warner further alleged that “140 million Americans” had been “touched by” Russian state-run propaganda in 2016 for the benefit of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Rubio did not challenge any of Warner’s claims.
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