Cyberwarfare and foreign election interference are a threat to American democracy, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said at an event hosted by the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service on Oct. 16.
Warner was governor of Virginia before being elected to the Senate in 2008. Prior to being elected governor, Warner cofounded wireless service provider Nextel which merged with Sprint in 2005. He currently serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Cyberwarfare threatens democracy in the United States, according to Warner. The Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election marked a new form of cyberwarfare through social media platforms, he said.
“In 2016, we broke total new ground, and the American government and the social media companies and others were caught totally flat-footed,” Warner said.
The United States will need to adapt quickly to the immediate threat of cyberwarfare, and the country is facing a historically strong threat from it, Warner said. Cyberwarfare offers a new low-cost mode of attacking countries or groups, and according to Warner, cyberwarfare will reform politics and military intelligence globally.
“This is both cheap and remarkably, remarkably effective, and you can do it from a remote location; you don’t have to send a spy in. It’s just a whole new world of intervention,” he said. “The least of the problems will be politics.”
President Donald Trump’s administration must address Russia’s cyber interference in the 2016 election, Warner said, criticizing the White House for its failure to improve election security to prevent future cyber interference in American elections.
“In a normal world, after this much evidence, a White House would say this is a federal, state and local responsibility, and we need to put a White House coordinator for election security,” Warner said. “This White House, of course, has not done that.”
The Trump administration will continue to grapple with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government until the investigation ends, Warner said.
“The sooner this process can come to a full, truthful conclusion the better. There will always be a cloud over this president until it’s either cleared up or until it’s confirmed,” he said. “We as Americans should know.”
Trump has weakened United States’ role as a world leader, Warner said. He said he worries the Trump administration’s policies and actions do not meet the historic standard for U.S. behavior as a leader in international politics.
“The rest of the world really looks to America for leadership,” Warner said. “I really fear at times that Trump does not understand that responsibility that he has.”
While Warner said he supports the U.S. capitalist system, its failure to address the needs of enough people is damaging.
“I managed to do pretty well in business, and I believe in our system, but I don’t think modern American capitalism is working for enough people,” Warner said.
Warner left students with a couple of pieces of advice about their roles as future leaders.
Warner encouraged students and young people to vote and engage with politics.
“Do not believe any of the bull that comes from people that your votes don’t count and your voices don’t count,” Warner said. “We need your ideas to help figure this out. At the end of the day, don’t lose faith. There’s never been a good bet against the United States of America.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Warner said capitalism was threatening democracy. The article has been updated to clarify that Warner supports U.S. capitalism, but said it is not working well enough for everyone.