March 30, 2018

Van Hollen Discusses DETER Act, Russian Move to Oust Diplomats

Yesterday U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to discuss the DETER Act, bipartisan legislation that he and Senator Rubio introduced aimed at preventing future foreign interference in U.S. elections. Highlights of his interview are below and video of the full interview is available here:

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Let me bring in Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who's on top of all of this. Not a huge surprise. We always anticipated the Russians would retaliate, tit for tat, and they just did.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD: That's right. Not a surprise at all, Wolf. It was very important that we stand with our allies, with the U.K. and others, sending a strong signal after the poisoning we saw in England. I hope -- the main thing I hope is that the Russian action doesn't discourage this President and the White House from continuing to fight back against Russian interference in certain places around the world where they've been a very counterproductive influence. But also, we don't let down our guard in preparing for potential Russian attacks on our elections – we need to really push back hard.

BLITZER: Well, how serious is that fear that Russians could interfere in the midterm elections coming up in November?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it's a very serious fear because we know they did it in 2016. We know from the Administration's own top intelligence folks, whether it's from NSA or from CIA, that they expect the Russian to try to do that again. This is why Senator Rubio and I have introduced the DETER Act. The DETER Act is to discourage Putin and others from interfering by creating very tough automatic penalties if they get caught in 2018.

BLITZER: Should the U.S. now further retaliate, or is it over, at least this chapter? We expel 60, they expel 60. Is it over or is this going to escalate into more tension?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I'd have to actually look at all the specifics with respect to this particular Russian action. What we should make sure we do not do is say, oh, boy, every time we do something, the Russians are going to respond, so we shouldn't do things going forward. We should take action going forward. You know, the President, finally, after Congress mandated that he do it, identified a number of Russian oligarchs who had been part of interfering with our elections before. You know, that was about the minimum that we should have done. So we should send a very clear signal --

BLITZER: Do you want more action?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, but through legislation. We need to make it clear that it's automatic and very tough. For example, the legislation we've introduced would say, if they get caught interfering in our election again, then we're going to penalize not just a few oligarchs. We're going to go after their banking sector. We're going to go after their oil sector. We're going to make it hurt because we want Putin to know it's not worth it to him to interfere in our elections.

BLITZER: This is a tense moment in U.S.-Russia relations. There's no doubt about that.