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I have spent my career working to protect our country. I served for 14 years in the intelligence and defense communities. I served three tours in Iraq while I was in the CIA, and I have served proudly under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Never did I imagine that I would see the president of the United States, the commander in chief, standing on the world stage and siding with the president of Russia over his own intelligence and law enforcement community.

But that’s what President Trump did in Helsinki, taking the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies who have made clear that Russia has taken aggressive steps to interfere in our elections. 

Our president has been all over the map, making statements and walking them back. But the fact remains that when given the opportunity to send the clear, necessary message to Russia about their interference in our democracy, President Trump dropped the ball. As the old adage goes, “good fences make good neighbors.” Unfortunately, President Trump’s response to Russian meddling was to knock down that fence and invite the Russian intelligence services to drive their truck all over our front yard.

Russia is using a standard playbook, one we have known about for years. And regrettably, President Trump seems to be playing right into their hands.

People across the political spectrum have spoken up loudly and clearly over the past week, and we have seen a strong reaction from many Republican and Democratic members of Congress. But it is critical that our leaders go beyond words: Congress needs to fulfill its constitutional responsibility of providing a check and balance on the executive branch, and pass bipartisan legislation that sends a clear message to Russia that they cannot carry out future attacks on our democratic systems without serious, immediate consequences. 

Those consequences should include tough, targeted sanctions that hit them where it hurts if they continue to meddle in our elections.

There’s bipartisan legislation pending on this, and Congress should act quickly. This should not be a partisan issue. It is a matter of patriotism, and protecting our democratic system.

In the meantime, here in Michigan, we must do more to protect our election systems.  Bad actors, both foreign and domestic, have and will try to attack these systems, as well as our electrical grids, and other state and local governments’ systems. The administration needs to prioritize these emerging threats, and Congress needs to provide robust oversight to ensure the administration is taking the necessary steps to protect us.

There is no greater charge than protecting our democratic system and preserving our faith in that system.

Elissa Slotkin is a candidate for Congress in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District.

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