The New York Times is out with an attention-grabbing statistic related to the government's effort to fight Russian interference in US elections: The State Department has been allocated $120 million to counter foreign meddling but has not spent a single dollar of that sum. The story chalks it up in part to President Trump's unwillingness to confront Moscow on the issue, as well as Rex Tillerson's apparent skepticism that the money would do any good. "If it's their intention to interfere, they're going to find ways to do that," Tillerson told Fox News last month. One tangible result of the ambivalence: None of the 23 analysts working in the department's Global Engagement Center, whose job it is to deter Moscow's propaganda, speaks Russian.
"There are now thousands of former Russian journalists who have been exiled or fired who are doing counter-Russian stuff in exile who could help," says Richard Stengel, who had oversight of the center under former President Obama. Congress directed the Pentagon in late 2016 to make $60 million available for the State Department's efforts, but Tillerson did not act in time to use it. Another $60 million was allotted for the following fiscal year, and after five months of deliberation, Tillerson has requested $40 million of that. The department should get the money around April. Meanwhile, a poll by Axios finds that most Americans don't think the Trump administration will stop foreign interference in the 2018 midterms. (Read more State Department stories.)