A State Department unit created in 2016 to combat election interference efforts by foreign countries has yet to receive the millions of dollars in funding that were allocated to it by Congress, HuffPost reported.
The Defense Department agreed to provide $40 million in funding to the Global Engagement Center earlier this year following growing complaints from lawmakers.
However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) noted last week that the money had still not arrived more than four months after their complaints.
A Senate aide also told HuffPost that the promised funds had since been cut in half to $20 million.
“If this was a priority, it would be solved in a matter of days,” said Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat in touch with State Department employees involved in the funding matter. “So we’re in a situation where you have a threat that’s not just theoretical, but has already inflicted exceptional damage on our institutions, and our democracy and our government is still fumbling around trying to figure out how to write the check.”
The Hill notes:
Congress allocated $120 million in 2016 to the Global Engagement Center in the State Department to fight foreign efforts to influence or meddle in democratic elections. The New York Times reported in March that the State Department still had not spent any of the money. President Trump has drawn criticism at times for his handling of the threat of interference in U.S. elections.
The president attracted scrutiny after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, where Trump cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
He walked back those remarks, only to later suggest that others besides Russia may have been responsible.