Senate report calls for action against foreign election interference amid Trump-Ukraine controversy

WASHINGTON – A new report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in the 2016 election has concluded that Russia acted to boost Donald Trump at the expense of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and delivers a call for future action to prevent foreign election interference.

The report's release comes as controversy swirls around President Donald Trump's requests to foreign nations to open investigations into his political opponent former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Biden family and has also called on China to investigate them as well, though China said it would reject the request.

The report says that the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA) "sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin."

Russia has denied any involvement in the 2016 election interference, though Russian President Vladimir Putin has joked about future interference in the 2020 election.

The IRA's activities were part of "a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society" the committee wrote.

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Among other controversial issues, Russia attempted to inflame tensions around race and "targeted African-Americans more than any other group or demographic."

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a Democratic presidential candidate, warned of future efforts to suppress African American voters and called on social media companies to hire more diverse staff in order to recognize future attempts to exploit racial tensions.

“Russian operatives fraudulently posed as Black Americans to actively discourage the Black community from voting," Harris said in a statement. "Social media companies must step up their efforts to fight disinformation and remove inflammatory content on their platforms, including by ensuring their workforces are diverse enough to identify and understand the cultural nuances that foreign actors exploit to divide and harm Americans.

According to the Committee, the election interference efforts did not end with the 2016 election.

The IRA actually increased its efforts after the conclusion of the 2016 election, in what Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr described as a "broader" goal "to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government," said Burr, warning of other election interference efforts by countries like China, North Korea, and Iran."

The Committee concluded its findings with a call to action and efforts to fight back against future election interference.

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As part of an effort to fight back against future interference, the Senate Intelligence Committee says "the Executive Branch should, in the run up to the 2020 election, reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election."

They recommend the creation of an interagency task force to combat misinformation efforts and a public information campaign against foreign interference.

Additionally, the Committee wants Congress to "establish guardrails" around social media to prevent future efforts.

“Congress must step up and establish guardrails to protect the integrity of our democracy. At minimum, we need to demand transparency around social media to prevent our adversaries from hiding in its shadows," said Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Committee.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate: Russia interfered to boost Trump against Clinton in 2016