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Mueller Report Summary: Russia Tried To Influence 2016 Election


There has been a lot of partisan bickering since the attorney general released a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. But one thing everyone can agree on - Russia interfere to try and influence the 2016 election in our country. The Department of Homeland Security says 21 states were specifically targeted by Russia, and Ohio was one of them. And I'm joined this morning by Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Mr. Secretary, thanks for taking the time.

FRANK LAROSE: Hey. Thanks, David.

GREENE: So the director of national intelligence told Congress recently - this year - that Russia and China are already trying to interfere in 2020. I guess I just want to ask you, should voters in your state be confident in their elections?

LAROSE: They absolutely should. And - and that's the important distinction that I always make on this. You know, do our - did our intelligence professionals tell us - and we believe them - that the Russians attempt - attempted to cause discord or sow discontent? Yes. But we have no reason to believe that they actually changed any votes or - or - or really "hacked," quote, unhacked - you know, unquote, the election. And so it's our job to make sure that we stay vigilant so that they can't do that and so that Ohioans can be confident in their votes.

GREENE: What steps have you taken? I mean, are you doing anything differently for 2020 compared to 2016 in terms of making sure that Russia doesn't hack into your election system?

LAROSE: Sure, absolutely. So you know, of course the most important thing is that we just remain vigilant. I served in the Army for 10 years. And we had this saying that the bad guys only have to be right once and we have to be right every day. The other thing that we're doing is supporting a piece of legislation that I've introduced in collaboration with the state legislature that creates a unique program called the Ohio Cyber Reserve (ph), which allows the Ohio National Guard to be ready to respond to disasters and make sure that we can work to prevent those and several other key provisions that are in the bill, such as post-election audits and requiring that there would be a chief information security officer at my office.

GREENE: But I want to ask you - you know, it's not just specific hacking or changing votes. I mean, we even learned from the attorney general's summary this week, you know, that Russia was involved in shaping social media in our country in significant ways in 2016. I mean, how can skeptical voters in Ohio know that they're seeing true information online and not fake information coming from a foreign government?

LAROSE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we used to call this propaganda. Or when I was in the military, they called it psychological operations. It's nothing new. It used to be leaflets kicked out of the back of an aircraft. Now it's just a message delivered directly to our - to our smartphones. Right?

And so it's important that Ohioans - that all Americans - be skeptical consumers of information. I like to say that we've never had so much information at our fingertips. But at the same time, many of us are so misinformed. And so I think it's important that you multi-source your information, that you go to credentialed journalists when you are looking for election information and not just believe everything you read on social media.

GREENE: So we're at a point where - I mean, you're tell - you're saying that much of the job is actually on voters to look at where the information is coming from and really always be skeptical.

LAROSE: Yeah. And I think it always has been. Right? It's our responsibility to be informed voters. And it's important that people seek a variety of information out there and - and again, just be skeptical of what you're reading. And it's important for myself, as Ohio's chief elections officer, and for other elected officials to be thoughtful about how they discuss this and not do the fearmongering that unfortunately some on both sides of the aisle have done about this.

GREENE: Frank LaRose is Ohio's secretary of state - his state, Ohio, was one of the states targeted by Russia according to the Department of Homeland Security - talking us about to protecting his election system in 2020.

Secretary LaRose, thank you so much for your time.

LAROSE: Hey - thank you so much, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.