The State Department did not spend any of the $120 million put in place to counter Russian meddling in US elections, according to media sources.
While the massive budget was allocated ever since 2016, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, did little to improve the Global Engagement Center, which is responsible for addressing Russian interference. The lack of spending was so apparent that not one of the 23 analysts working at the office speaks Russian.
Last month, Tillerson was skeptical of the department’s ability to combat Russian interference, saying that if Moscow wanted to meddle, it was “going to find ways to do that”.
Just before the end of the Obama administration, Congress told the Pentagon to give $60 million to the State Department so it could better coordinate efforts to tackle Russian and Chinese “anti-democratic propaganda”, according to media sources.
Tillerson had seven months to decide whether to spend the money, however, due to the imminent end of the fiscal year, the Pentagon said that the State Department could no longer receive the budget.
In addition, the State Department had another $60 million available for the next fiscal year, a figure which the department brought down to $40 million last Monday.
According to department officials, the State Department expects to get the money come April.
The lack of spending is a symptom of president Trump’s passive response to Russian interference, something which he made little effort to combat Moscow and defend democratic institutions.
After Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians last month for interference, the president tweeted that his campaign was innocent of any wrongdoings and reiterated that there was “no collusion!”.
While Trump continues to defend his campaign and dismiss the idea of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, intelligence officials warned last month that Russia was using the internet to sow doubt among American voters.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told Senate last month.
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