The Founders created the model for dealing with foreign interference — we should

Over the last few weeks, several reports have leaked that the Department of Homeland Security withheld reports condemning Russian interference in the election or falsifying evidence about the severity of the threat. The reports also challenge the veracity of attacks on Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenJoe Biden looks to expand election battleground into Trump country Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report MORE’s mental health propagated and disseminated by Russian media outlets.  

The threat posed by Russia is not a new one. Democrats in Congress have been warning about ongoing Russian interference for months. In 2019, the House of Representatives passed three bills to strengthen internal protections against electoral interference. They have sat, untouched, on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham: GOP will confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the election Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally The Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight MORE’s desk. President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE has also refused to address the threats to electoral integrity and, according to some, welcomed foreign interference as long as it helps his reelection chances. 

In 1793, President George Washington and his administration faced the first attempt by a foreign power to undermine American foreign policy. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton despised each other and fundamentally differed on every major issue. But they agreed that foreign interference couldn’t be tolerated. They worked together to reject foreign interference and established a precedent that should still guide American foreign policy today. 

In February 1793, France declared war on Great Britain and the conflict quickly spiraled to engulf their allies, enemies and colonial holdings. Washington and his Cabinet agreed that the United States had to remain neutral — the new country could ill-afford to fight another war so soon after the end of the Revolution. Accordingly, George Washington and the Cabinet gathered on April 19 and agreed to issue a proclamation declaring American neutrality

Around the same time, the new French minister, Citizen Edmond Charles Genêt, arrived in Charleston and was greeted with much fanfare. He spent the next several weeks traveling to Philadelphia to present his credentials to Washington, and enjoyed lavish parties, balls and feasts in honor of his arrival. Genêt, and the French government, fully expected the United States to come to its aid under the terms of the Treaty of Defense both countries signed in 1778. He also mistook the widespread enthusiasm for his arrival as unqualified support for the French war effort.

When Genêt arrived in Philadelphia, he was disappointed to discover that the Washington administration would not be joining the war effort, and shocked that the administration intended to enforce neutrality. Genêt assumed that the administration would turn a blind eye to his military activities in honor of their former alliance against Britain. Instead, Jefferson warned Genêt to cease his privateering activities. Privateers were ships owned and captained by private citizens that sailed under a letter of marque, or a license, from a foreign government. During the war, both France and Britain employed huge numbers of privateers to attack the other side’s ships.

While privateers were an accepted part of 18th century warfare, they caused trouble for Washington and the Cabinet when they dragged their captured booty back into American ports or used American docks to refuel and arm their weapons. Accordingly, Washington and the Cabinet declared that privateers could dock to purchase food and necessary supplies, but they could not buy war materiel or bring captured ships back into port. 

Genêt violated this neutral policy in spectacularly flagrant fashion. He outfitted a privateer, named Citoyen Genet, and unleashed it on British ships lurking outside American waters. At the end of June, the Citoyen Genet dragged the Little Sarah, a captured British ship, into the port of Philadelphia. Genêt renamed it the Petite Democrate and set about arming the ship as a new privateer. All of these activities took place right under the president’s nose, as the port was about six blocks from Washington’s house.

These activities did not go unnoticed by the British. George…

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