DOWNERS GROVE – The need for increased election security and President Trump’s recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin were in the spotlight during a July 20 appearance by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Democratic Congressional candidate Sean Casten at the Downers Grove Public Library.
“The U.S. intelligence community agrees that Russia conducted a cyber attack against the United States and our 2016 elections, yet President Trump and Congressional Republicans continue to genuflect before a foreign tyrant,” Durbin said. “We know Russia will attack again, but President Trump and Congressional Republicans are unwilling to commit the resources necessary to protect one of our most sacred institutions: free and secure democratic elections.”
Casten, who is opposing Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) in the November election to the 6th District, criticized the incumbent for voting against an amendment by Rep. Michael Quigley (D-Chicago) that would have restored $380 million in election security grants, which were previously removed from the 2019 budget.
The Illinois Board of Elections was the subject of Russian hacking in 2016, Durbin said.
“The question is, ‘are we vulnerable?' ...(Trump) has changed his position on this three times this week," Durbin said. "The reality is, we are vulnerable.”
Hackers, for example, have the ability to change voters' addresses, Durbin said, which would lead to chaos at polling places. He and Casten agreed that election officials must be trained to spot the red flags associated with hacking.
“My representative is doing nothing to protect that system so that everybody in this room and all the voters, not just in the district but in the country, are protected," Casten said.
Roskam first was elected to Congress in 2006. Casten, an energy executive, is seeking public office for the first time.
The call for greater election security comes four days after Trump refused to endorse the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump added that Putin was "extremely strong and powerful" in his denial of Russian involvement. Trump's comments came at a press conference following his meeting with Putin.
“I think we are all troubled by the attacks on democracy that are going on,” Casten said. “We’re here in no small part because of the combination of the President’s national embarrassment of a press conference this week and the continuing information that’s coming out of the Mueller investigation. "But I what I find even more troubling is that protecting democracy has become a partisan issue."
Durbin added that Trump is "largely unprepared" in large part because he does not like to read. "He's also unpredictable," he said.
He also criticized Trump for wrongly assuming that concerns about Russian meddling the 2016 election call into question the legitimacy of his presidency.
"It's not about you, Mr. President," Durbin said. "Everything is not about him."