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A Conversation with Mark Warner: Russia, Facebook and the Trump Campaign

AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Virginia Senator Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which recently released its bipartisan findings that Russia did try to interfere in the 2016 elections.


What's the most important takeaway from the Russia investigation to date?

"Russia massively intervened in our elections. They hacked both political parties. They released information to help Mr. Trump and hurt Clinton. They scanned or hacked into 21 states' electoral systems, and they found ways to use social media in an unprecedented way in terms of not just political advertising, but more specifically creation of fake accounts that spread misinformation and disinformation."

What do you think of President Trump's continued insistence that nothing happened?

"I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but for someone who says there's no there there, he continually tries to interfere in the Mueller investigation. His failure to acknowledge this threat means we are not as secure as we should be in terms of election security. That's why the Congress and our Senate Intelligence Community acted in a bipartisan way to say that every vote in 2018 should have a paper ballot or a paper trail."

Facebook has been under fire for this most recent leak. What role does Congress have in this to protect people's data?

"I first called out Facebook and some of the social media platforms in December of 2016. For the first six months, the companies just kind of blew off these allegations, but these proved to be true; that Russia used their social media platforms with fake accounts to spread false information, they paid for political advertising on their platforms. Facebook says those tactics are no longer allowed -- that they've kicked this firm off their site, but I think they've got a lot of explaining to do."

What's next for the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia investigation?

"We hope we can keep putting pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to work with state electoral boards so that people have the appropriate security clearances. We also need to now move into the realm of how we grapple with the question around social media and what our recommendations are there. And then, we will still have a lot of questions about what level of collusion or collaboration might have taken place between Russians and individuals connected with the Trump campaign."

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.