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Illinois Voters Choose Issues Over Identity

In an Illinois congressional district where just six percent of the constituency is Indian American, the incumbent Democrat Congressman is being challenged by another Indian American.

“I see it as American versus American,” Jitendra Diganvker, or “JD” — the Republican challenger for the Illinois 8th district, said.

“Yeah we happen to be Indian,” he added dismissively.

“It is a good thing that members of minorities are running as Democrats or as Republicans,” the incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi said.

The Illinois 8th District is 51 percent Caucasian, 28 percent Hispanic,14 percent Asian, and four percent African-American, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. Of those Asians, about half are Indian, according to the campaigns’ estimates.

Views and policy

In this diverse district, voters care about issues more than identity.

“I don’t care about them being Indian American. I just hope that whichever one wins that they support and help the people,” said Michelle Sims, an employee at the DuPage Community College. “And if you’re Indian then, hey, that’s fine. Just help the people.”

A Jamaican-American university student, Amara Creighton, says she thinks it is great that two minority candidates are running and have support, regardless of their ethnicity.

“I think what’s more important is their views and their policies,” Creighton said. “I mean, it doesn’t really matter to me what their minority is as long as they’re standing up for us and doing good for us.”

This rare instance of two candidates of the same minority running against each other is reflective of a larger trend throughout the United States – record numbers of Indian Americans are running for office and winning their elections.

In 2016, four Indian Americans — one of them being Krishnamoorthi, were elected to the U.S. House and a fifth was elected to the Senate — outnumbering in just one election the total number of Indian Americans to serve as U.S. representatives.

Krishnamoorthi, a businessman and former deputy state treasurer, was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives in 2016. He succeeded Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected that year to the U.S. Senate.

Diganvker is a small businessman, Uber driver, and ardent member of the local Republican party. As the underdog, he is running as a “day-to-day” guy, and says he decided to run because he feels his opponent is out of touch with middle-class, hardworking families in his community.

​But his opponent, who is completing his first term in Congress, says he is far from out of touch with his community. He visits each weekend to see his wife and children when Congress is in session.

Though both candidates are immigrants, their views on immigration policy differ. Krishnamoorthi, the Democrat, has been critical of Trump’s policies to decrease refugee allowances and speaks out against family separations at the border.

“We shouldn’t separate parents from children,” he told VOA. “That’s an abomination.”

Though Diganvker, too, opposes family separations at the border, he favors Trump’s promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico and supported the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.

“I’m also an immigrant. I followed the legal process and I believe in merit-based immigration,” he said, adding that merit-based immigration “brings the right skill set of people into our country.”

Krishnamoorthi, however, said that his parents legal immigration to the United States has not hardened his immigration stance.

“The fact that my parents came here legally and someone [else] did not, doesn’t mean that we should be inhumane or disrespectful, doesn’t mean we should treat them with anything less than dignity,” he said.

Diverse constituency

Both Congressional candidates are Hindu, but have wooed members of various religions in the community.

“When you come to this country there is no race,” said Farrukh Khan, a Muslim halal-shop owner in Schaumburg. “We should not go for the race, we should go for the people who more care about you and your community. Hindu or Muslim doesn’t matter.”

​So as not to lose a customer, he did not indicate which man he will support in the November election.

Myrna Frankel has volunteered for Krishnamoorthi since his first campaign, an unsuccessful bid for Illinois comptroller in 2010. They know each other through the Jewish Beth Tikvah Congregation in Schaumburg where the congressman, who lives a few blocks away, sent his children for nursery school.

“He considers himself a JewDu – half Jewish, half Hindu,” she recounted with a laugh.

Myrna’s husband, Robert, said that this diversity and community relationships are typical of their community.

“Our state senator is from Mexico. Our state representative is from Puerto Rico. Our junior senator is of Thai background,” he said.

“We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else,” he said.

When it comes to policy, voters in the Illinois 8th seem to heavily favor the incumbent. Early polling by Five Thirty Eight shows a “99% chance” that Krishnamoorthi will win. Rasmussen’s most recent poll shows a “Strong Dem” leaning in the midterm. As of June 30, Krishnamoorthi had raised more than $4 million compared to Diganvker’s $29,000.

But the challenger isn’t intimidated.

“People can give him $10 million and that’s not going to scare me,” he said, adding that despite recent polling, his campaign is “1,000 percent sure” that he will win in November.

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To Some the Migrant Caravan is a Political Gift

To supporters of President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies, news of a caravan of Central American migrants heading to the U.S., just weeks before the U.S. mid-term elections, is a political gift.

“Politically speaking it’s probably going to be an election game changer, because nothing is more powerful, more potent than the idea of uncontrolled masses of people surging into your country,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for stricter enforcement policies to curb illegal immigration.

By Monday, the number of the migrants in the caravan had swelled to more than 7,000. Most are Hondurans. Many are hoping to seek asylum in the United States from the violence and poverty in their country. 

Over the weekend, thousands of migrants crossed Guatemala’s border into Mexico by breaking through fences, pushing by Mexican police in riot gear and refusing offers of aid and possible asylum in Mexico.

President Trump called the migrant caravan a “national emergency” in a tweet on Monday.

In other tweets he has threatened to cut off aid to the region, and to use the U.S. military to completely shut down the border with Mexico if the caravan is not stopped. And he implied that failing to prevent what he called an “assault on our country” could undermine his support for the recently renegotiated free trade agreement with Mexico. 

Election issue

Much of this rhetoric is political. The president is trying to make the migrant caravan a prominent election issue to underscore his tough immigration policies and his demand for building a wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

“The Democrats want caravans. They like the caravans,” said Trump at a political campaign rally in Nevada on Friday.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted over the weekend that the president is just trying to change the subject away from issues he sees as losing for Republicans.

Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates are expressing concern for the safety and security of the migrant group, which includes women and children.

“I think the caravan becomes an excuse for the president to ratchet up his rhetoric that is quite hostile and demonizing of immigrants, and gets to take away their humanity,” said Royce Bernstein Murray, with the American Immigration Council.

Despite the rhetoric surrounding the migrant caravan, the American Immigration Council says illegal immigration levels into the U.S. are not increasing. It is just that now migrant groups are made up more of families fleeing violence in countries like Honduras, which has one of the world’s highest murder rate. And they tend to travel together for safety. During a caravan in April, the numbers of migrants decreased significantly as they got closer to the U.S. border.

​Unfortunate timing

There has also been speculation that caravan organizers may also be trying to gather large numbers of migrants to garner media coverage of the increasingly dangerous and impoverished situation in Central America, as well as for protection. 

Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the “apparent political motivation of some (caravan) organizers” without giving specifics.

By portraying the caravan as a looming illegal immigration onslaught, anti-immigrant activists hope to energize Republican voters who support tougher border security policies, and mitigate widespread criticism of Trump’s past policy of separating migrant families at the border.

“Trump is very successful at shifting blame, quite correctly, that the opposition to family detention to detaining minors, which created a short term public relations problem, in fact was the solution because of the deterrent value,” said Stein.

Immigrant advocates admit it is unfortunate the caravan may shift public focus away from the need to more fairly and humanely reform the immigration system and to work with Central American countries to address the root causes of poverty and violence. 

“The timing is tricky no doubt, and it does play into the rhetoric of “us versus them” scenario. My hope is that it also becomes an opportunity for us to focus on this issue,” said Bernstein Murray.

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To Some the Migrant Caravan is a Political Gift

To supporters of President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies, news of a caravan of Central American migrants heading to the U.S., just weeks before the U.S. mid-term elections, is a political gift.

“Politically speaking it’s probably going to be an election game changer, because nothing is more powerful, more potent than the idea of uncontrolled masses of people surging into your country,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for stricter enforcement policies to curb illegal immigration.

WATCH: Trump immigration policies

​By Monday, the number of the migrants in the caravan had swelled to more than 7,000. Most are Hondurans. Many are hoping to seek asylum in the United States from the violence and poverty in their country. 

Over the weekend, thousands of migrants crossed Guatemala’s border into Mexico by breaking through fences, pushing by Mexican police in riot gear and refusing offers of aid and possible asylum in Mexico.

President Trump called the migrant caravan a “national emergency” in a tweet on Monday.

In other tweets he has threatened to cut off aid to the region, and to use the U.S. military to completely shut down the border with Mexico if the caravan is not stopped. And he implied that failing to prevent what he called an “assault on our country” could undermine his support for the recently renegotiated free trade agreement with Mexico. 

Election issue

Much of this rhetoric is political. The president is trying to make the migrant caravan a prominent election issue to underscore his tough immigration policies and his demand for building a wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

“The Democrats want caravans. They like the caravans,” said Trump at a political campaign rally in Nevada on Friday.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted over the weekend that the president is just trying to change the subject away from issues he sees as losing for Republicans.

Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates are expressing concern for the safety and security of the migrant group, which includes women and children.

“I think the caravan becomes an excuse for the president to ratchet up his rhetoric that is quite hostile and demonizing of immigrants, and gets to take away their humanity,” said Royce Bernstein Murray, with the American Immigration Council.

Despite the rhetoric surrounding the migrant caravan, the American Immigration Council says illegal immigration levels into the U.S. are not increasing. It is just that now migrant groups are made up more of families fleeing violence in countries like Honduras, which has one of the world’s highest murder rate. And they tend to travel together for safety. During a caravan in April, the numbers of migrants decreased significantly as they got closer to the U.S. border.

​Unfortunate timing

There has also been speculation that caravan organizers may also be trying to gather large numbers of migrants to garner media coverage of the increasingly dangerous and impoverished situation in Central America, as well as for protection. 

Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the “apparent political motivation of some (caravan) organizers” without giving specifics.

By portraying the caravan as a looming illegal immigration onslaught, anti-immigrant activists hope to energize Republican voters who support tougher border security policies, and mitigate widespread criticism of Trump’s past policy of separating migrant families at the border.

“Trump is very successful at shifting blame, quite correctly, that the opposition to family detention to detaining minors, which created a short term public relations problem, in fact was the solution because of the deterrent value,” said Stein.

Immigrant advocates admit it is unfortunate the caravan may shift public focus away from the need to more fairly and humanely reform the immigration system and to work with Central American countries to address the root causes of poverty and violence. 

“The timing is tricky no doubt, and it does play into the rhetoric of “us versus them” scenario. My hope is that it also becomes an opportunity for us to focus on this issue,” said Bernstein Murray.

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To Some the Migrant Caravan is a Political Gift

To supporters of President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies, news of a caravan of Central American migrants heading to the U.S., just weeks before the U.S. mid-term elections, is a political gift.

“Politically speaking it’s probably going to be an election game changer, because nothing is more powerful, more potent than the idea of uncontrolled masses of people surging into your country,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates for stricter enforcement policies to curb illegal immigration.

WATCH: Trump immigration policies

​By Monday, the number of the migrants in the caravan had swelled to more than 7,000. Most are Hondurans. Many are hoping to seek asylum in the United States from the violence and poverty in their country. 

Over the weekend, thousands of migrants crossed Guatemala’s border into Mexico by breaking through fences, pushing by Mexican police in riot gear and refusing offers of aid and possible asylum in Mexico.

President Trump called the migrant caravan a “national emergency” in a tweet on Monday.

In other tweets he has threatened to cut off aid to the region, and to use the U.S. military to completely shut down the border with Mexico if the caravan is not stopped. And he implied that failing to prevent what he called an “assault on our country” could undermine his support for the recently renegotiated free trade agreement with Mexico. 

Election issue

Much of this rhetoric is political. The president is trying to make the migrant caravan a prominent election issue to underscore his tough immigration policies and his demand for building a wall along the U.S. Mexico border.

“The Democrats want caravans. They like the caravans,” said Trump at a political campaign rally in Nevada on Friday.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted over the weekend that the president is just trying to change the subject away from issues he sees as losing for Republicans.

Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates are expressing concern for the safety and security of the migrant group, which includes women and children.

“I think the caravan becomes an excuse for the president to ratchet up his rhetoric that is quite hostile and demonizing of immigrants, and gets to take away their humanity,” said Royce Bernstein Murray, with the American Immigration Council.

Despite the rhetoric surrounding the migrant caravan, the American Immigration Council says illegal immigration levels into the U.S. are not increasing. It is just that now migrant groups are made up more of families fleeing violence in countries like Honduras, which has one of the world’s highest murder rate. And they tend to travel together for safety. During a caravan in April, the numbers of migrants decreased significantly as they got closer to the U.S. border.

​Unfortunate timing

There has also been speculation that caravan organizers may also be trying to gather large numbers of migrants to garner media coverage of the increasingly dangerous and impoverished situation in Central America, as well as for protection. 

Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the “apparent political motivation of some (caravan) organizers” without giving specifics.

By portraying the caravan as a looming illegal immigration onslaught, anti-immigrant activists hope to energize Republican voters who support tougher border security policies, and mitigate widespread criticism of Trump’s past policy of separating migrant families at the border.

“Trump is very successful at shifting blame, quite correctly, that the opposition to family detention to detaining minors, which created a short term public relations problem, in fact was the solution because of the deterrent value,” said Stein.

Immigrant advocates admit it is unfortunate the caravan may shift public focus away from the need to more fairly and humanely reform the immigration system and to work with Central American countries to address the root causes of poverty and violence. 

“The timing is tricky no doubt, and it does play into the rhetoric of “us versus them” scenario. My hope is that it also becomes an opportunity for us to focus on this issue,” said Bernstein Murray.

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Bolton: Russian Meddling Had No Effect on 2016 Election Outcome

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton says he told Russian officials that its meddling in the 2016 election did not affect the outcome but instead created distrust.

“The important thing is that the desire for interfering in our affairs itself arouses distrust in Russian people, in Russia. And I think it should not be tolerated. It should not be acceptable,” Bolton said Monday on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Bolton is in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders on President Donald Trump’s intention to pull the United States out of a 1987 arms control agreement.

Before joining the White House, Bolton called Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election an “act of war.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian election interference and allegations of collusion with the Trump campaign — allegations both Trump and Russia deny.

The U.S. has charged a number of Russian citizens and agents with election meddling.

Last week, the Justice Department charged a Russian woman with “information warfare” for managing the finances of an internet company looking to interfere in next month’s midterm elections.

The company is owned by a business executive with alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The woman, Elena Khusyaynova, said Monday she is “shocked” by the charges against her. She calls herself a “simple Russian woman” who does not speak English.

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Bolton: Russian Meddling Had No Effect on 2016 Election Outcome

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton says he told Russian officials that its meddling in the 2016 election did not affect the outcome but instead created distrust.

“The important thing is that the desire for interfering in our affairs itself arouses distrust in Russian people, in Russia. And I think it should not be tolerated. It should not be acceptable,” Bolton said Monday on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Bolton is in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders on President Donald Trump’s intention to pull the United States out of a 1987 arms control agreement.

Before joining the White House, Bolton called Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election an “act of war.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian election interference and allegations of collusion with the Trump campaign — allegations both Trump and Russia deny.

The U.S. has charged a number of Russian citizens and agents with election meddling.

Last week, the Justice Department charged a Russian woman with “information warfare” for managing the finances of an internet company looking to interfere in next month’s midterm elections.

The company is owned by a business executive with alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The woman, Elena Khusyaynova, said Monday she is “shocked” by the charges against her. She calls herself a “simple Russian woman” who does not speak English.

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Trump: US to Cut Aid to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador

President Donald Trump says the United States “will now begin cutting off or substantially reducing” the amount of foreign aid given to three Central American countries, saying they were “not able to do the job” of stopping migrants from leaving their countries and “coming illegally” to the U.S.

“Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador — they’re paid a lot of money,” Trump told reporters Monday afternoon. “Every year, we give them foreign aid. And they did nothing for us. Nothing. They did nothing for us. So, we give them tremendous amounts of money. You know what it is, you cover it all the time — hundreds of millions of dollars. They, like a lot of others, do nothing for our country.”

The president’s comments came as a group of several thousand migrants, mostly from Honduras, spent Sunday night in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula as they continued their trek toward the United States and away from what they say is unbearable violence and poverty at home.

Trump, in a tweet earlier in the day, claimed “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” the caravan.

Reporters traveling with the caravan say they have spotted no people from the Middle East in the group.

Asked by a reporter on the White House south lawn what evidence he had of Middle Easterners in the caravan, Trump replied, “I had reports, and they have a lot of everybody in the group. It’s a horrible thing, and it’s a lot bigger than 5,000 people, and we got to stop ’em at the border. And unfortunately, you look at the countries, they have not done their job.”

When pressed further about his assertion, Trump told journalists if they take their cameras into the caravan, “You’re going to find MS-13. You’re going to find Middle Eastern. You’re going to find everything. And guess what, we’re not allowing them in our country. We want safety.”

Two weeks ahead of U.S. congressional elections, Trump, a Republican, again laid the blame for the latest mass migration toward the southern U.S. border on opposition Democrats.

The United Nations refugee agency said it has 32 workers in Mexico to provide humanitarian assistance to the migrants and legal advice, with its local partners offering asylum information to those who want to stay.

The International Organization for Migration announced on Monday that large numbers of migrants arrived in Mexico, with many likely to remain for an extended period.

IOM estimates that more than 7,200 people are in the caravan, with many of them planning to continue their march northward.

Authorities in southern Mexico largely left the migrants alone Sunday as they walked toward the day’s destination in Chiapas state.

The Mexican government has pledged to process asylum requests for migrants who apply. The country’s interior ministry reported that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday a total 1,028 people had requested refugee status.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute said it reiterates its duty to safeguard the human rights of migrants who enter its territory.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an organization that helps the migrant caravans in Central America, said governments in the region have adopted “a policy of fear and racism imposed by the United States” and are not considering the reasons why people are seeking somewhere new to go.

“They are walking in mass exodus because they cannot live in their country anymore due to extreme violence, lack of opportunity, and the corruption and impunity that has expelled them from their homes,” the group said in a statement Sunday.

Mexico’s incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told supporters at a rally Sunday in Chiapas he would be sending a letter to Trump proposing Mexico, the United States and Canada work together to invest in development in Central America to address poverty.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office December 1, said people who leave their home do so not because they want to, but out of necessity. He has pledged to offer migrants work visas, and said Sunday that Mexico has to guarantee human rights and that above all, the migrant families, women and children will have protection.

“Nothing bad will happen to the Central American migrants,” Lopez Obrador said.

Aid group Save the Children expressed concern Sunday about children who were sleeping outside in Tapachula and Suchiate either because places were full, or the children feared they would be detained once inside.

The group estimates one in four members of the caravan are children.

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Trump: US to Cut Aid to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador

President Donald Trump says the United States “will now begin cutting off or substantially reducing” the amount of foreign aid given to three Central American countries, saying they were “not able to do the job” of stopping migrants from leaving their countries and “coming illegally” to the U.S.

“Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador — they’re paid a lot of money,” Trump told reporters Monday afternoon. “Every year, we give them foreign aid. And they did nothing for us. Nothing. They did nothing for us. So, we give them tremendous amounts of money. You know what it is, you cover it all the time — hundreds of millions of dollars. They, like a lot of others, do nothing for our country.”

The president’s comments came as a group of several thousand migrants, mostly from Honduras, spent Sunday night in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula as they continued their trek toward the United States and away from what they say is unbearable violence and poverty at home.

Trump, in a tweet earlier in the day, claimed “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” the caravan.

Reporters traveling with the caravan say they have spotted no people from the Middle East in the group.

Asked by a reporter on the White House south lawn what evidence he had of Middle Easterners in the caravan, Trump replied, “I had reports, and they have a lot of everybody in the group. It’s a horrible thing, and it’s a lot bigger than 5,000 people, and we got to stop ’em at the border. And unfortunately, you look at the countries, they have not done their job.”

When pressed further about his assertion, Trump told journalists if they take their cameras into the caravan, “You’re going to find MS-13. You’re going to find Middle Eastern. You’re going to find everything. And guess what, we’re not allowing them in our country. We want safety.”

Two weeks ahead of U.S. congressional elections, Trump, a Republican, again laid the blame for the latest mass migration toward the southern U.S. border on opposition Democrats.

The United Nations refugee agency said it has 32 workers in Mexico to provide humanitarian assistance to the migrants and legal advice, with its local partners offering asylum information to those who want to stay.

The International Organization for Migration announced on Monday that large numbers of migrants arrived in Mexico, with many likely to remain for an extended period.

IOM estimates that more than 7,200 people are in the caravan, with many of them planning to continue their march northward.

Authorities in southern Mexico largely left the migrants alone Sunday as they walked toward the day’s destination in Chiapas state.

The Mexican government has pledged to process asylum requests for migrants who apply. The country’s interior ministry reported that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday a total 1,028 people had requested refugee status.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute said it reiterates its duty to safeguard the human rights of migrants who enter its territory.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras, an organization that helps the migrant caravans in Central America, said governments in the region have adopted “a policy of fear and racism imposed by the United States” and are not considering the reasons why people are seeking somewhere new to go.

“They are walking in mass exodus because they cannot live in their country anymore due to extreme violence, lack of opportunity, and the corruption and impunity that has expelled them from their homes,” the group said in a statement Sunday.

Mexico’s incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told supporters at a rally Sunday in Chiapas he would be sending a letter to Trump proposing Mexico, the United States and Canada work together to invest in development in Central America to address poverty.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office December 1, said people who leave their home do so not because they want to, but out of necessity. He has pledged to offer migrants work visas, and said Sunday that Mexico has to guarantee human rights and that above all, the migrant families, women and children will have protection.

“Nothing bad will happen to the Central American migrants,” Lopez Obrador said.

Aid group Save the Children expressed concern Sunday about children who were sleeping outside in Tapachula and Suchiate either because places were full, or the children feared they would be detained once inside.

The group estimates one in four members of the caravan are children.

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Midterm Elections Could Impact America’s Global Engagement

While domestic concerns dominate much of the political debate ahead of next month’s U.S. midterm elections, Democratic lawmakers say they are eager to assert themselves on foreign affairs and, when necessary, provide a check on the Trump administration if they win control of at least one chamber of Congress in November.

From trade to refugee quotas to regional concerns spanning the globe, a newly empowered Democratic majority would work energetically to hold the administration to account on its policies and potentially wield the power of the purse in areas of disagreement.

Republicans, who played a similar role for much of the previous Obama administration, are warning of a potential uptick in partisan discord on foreign policy, a realm that in past eras, such as the Cold War, often saw broad bipartisan consensus.

“The results of the election can create an opportunity to press issues in a way that, right now, can’t be done with Republican control of both the House and the Senate,” Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told VOA. 

“For example, our role in the world on refugees — this administration has dramatically cut back on refugees,” Menendez added. “And standing up for human rights and democracy — it doesn’t seem to be a significant priority, as it has been in other administrations, with the Trump administration.”

“We are the appropriators,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said of Democratic lawmakers. “So when the White House sends a budget up every year and they propose dramatically reduced funding for USAID [foreign assistance] or diplomacy, we will be able to continue to robustly fund those priorities.”

Power of the majority

Republicans don’t dispute that a new Democratic majority in either house of Congress would flex its muscles.

“The primary role of Congress is to fund the government, including the Department of Defense, and Democrats could have a direct impact,” the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said.

“The Democrats could do a great deal with power in Congress,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The president, by the Constitution, is granted diplomatic power. He’s also the commander-in-chief of the military, but only Congress can declare war. And also on many other issues, such as applying sanctions, Congress passes the laws.”

“You don’t need to worry about a dull period,” said national security expert Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t know that control of both houses [of Congress] is the issue. I think it might well be the partisanship of both houses and how hard it may be to agree on anything, move things forward, and avoid turning every foreign policy issue into a partisan issue.”

Current polling suggests that Democrats are more likely to win a majority in the House of Representatives than the Senate.

Recent months provide examples of House bipartisanship on international matters as well as partisan divergence.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, and the panel’s top Democrat, Eliot Engel of New York, recently wrote a joint letter to President Donald Trump demanding “swift action” regarding the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Last month, however, Democrats took center stage in opposing the administration’s plan to provide $20 million to help Mexico deport Central American migrants passing through the country to reach the United States. In a statement, Engel labeled the plan “senseless” and an attempt “to use the State Department to force his [Trump’s] deportation crusade on other countries.”

Oversight role

A majority in either chamber of Congress would give Democrats broad power to scrutinize and draw attention to the administration’s decisions and initiatives on matters large and small.

“There are things I’d like to see done at the [Foreign Relations] committee that the Republican majority doesn’t have an interest in,” Menendez said. “For example, I get concerned about the allegations of political firings at the State Department. That is something I would press if we had a Democratic majority. I have a more robust view of oversight – we really don’t know, for the most part, what’s been happening in our engagement with North Korea.”

“A lot of Democrats are critical of President Trump on North Korea policy,” O’Hanlon said. “Certainly many Democrats think he’s been too friendly to Kim Jong Un or too unpredictable in his bluster and his tweets.”

O’Hanlon noted that Trump is constitutionally empowered to try to forge a nuclear treaty with North Korea, just as his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, pushed for an international nuclear accord with Iran. Ratification is another matter.

“Only the Senate can ratify treaties. Congress cannot write the treaty itself, only the executive can do that. But then the Congress has the power to say yea or nay,” O’Hanlon explained. “Ultimately it would be a question of whether Congress would bless any possible [North Korean nuclear] deal that required U.S. money or funds or a peace treaty.”

“Obviously the Democrats are going to pick at every possible weakness,” Cordesman said. “If the president is successful in dismantling the North Korean nuclear program, you might have some very loud Republican voices and some very silent Democratic ones. It’s going to depend on how people perceive the opportunity.”

A Democratic majority in either the House or the Senate could launch or reinvigorate investigations of the Trump administration, including its ties to Russia, an issue that is already the focus of a special counsel probe as well as bipartisan investigations by multiple committees on Capitol Hill. Republican and Democratic lawmakers also have joined forces to slap sanctions on Moscow for a variety of misdeeds.

Asked if a Democratic legislative majority would take an even tougher line with Russia, Kaine paused before answering.

“Certainly greater scrutiny,” the Virginia Democrat said. “You won’t see Congress turning a blind eye.”

“Russia is a place where it’s Donald Trump against the rest of the American foreign policy community, rather than President Trump against the Democrats,” O’Hanlon said. “Congress has been pretty adamant, both Democratic and Republican caucuses, against Russian behavior and anxious to apply punishment.”

Republican view

Regardless of the outcome of the elections, Republicans say lawmakers of both parties should work cooperatively with the administration on foreign affairs.

“There’s a lot going on in the world, so we need to try to be as unified as we can in working with the administration, rather than just joining the resistance,” Cornyn said. “There’s a lot of stake. I have not been encouraged by what we’ve seen of late. They [Democrats] seem more of the sand-in-the-gears mindset. This is a different political environment than any I’ve encountered during my adult life.”

Another Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, scoffed when asked about Democrats asserting themselves on global affairs.

“I don’t know what their foreign policy is,” Graham said. “I know what Trump’s is. But what is the Democratic view of foreign policy? I don’t think they have one. They don’t like Trump, but what are they for? Should we stay in Syria? Should we stay in Afghanistan? What should we do with Iran? These are things they never talk about.”

Military engagements

Kaine has long urged Congress to pass a new authorization for the use of military force in the war on terror, updating a law passed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I hope, on matters like trade and declaration of war, Congress will haul back some of its [constitutional] power,” the senator said.

Cordesman said the next Congress will confront multiple questions about ongoing U.S. military engagements at a time when America’s fiscal situation is worsening.

“On defense policy, in terms of basic spending levels, things are now relatively non-partisan,” Cordesman said. “If it came to a major new commitment in Afghanistan, any dramatic action in Iraq or Syria, or humanitarian aid, a lot would be debated there. Government spending and money may be a much more sensitive issue. Republicans may favor defense spending, Democrats may have more support for foreign aid. But exactly what’s going to happen is pretty hard to tell.”

“My expectation is that in most foreign policy issues we would not see a Democratic House, even a Democratic Senate, making huge changes in U.S. foreign policy because, in some ways, they lack the means,” O’Hanlon said. “But even more importantly, as much as they complain about Mr. Trump’s style and worry about his overall steadiness, it’s not clear how many of his policies they fundamentally disagree with in a way that would create a consensus they could write into law and change the nation’s basic foreign policy course.”

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Is There Interference in US Midterm Elections? What We Know

When the Justice Department unsealed criminal charges detailing a yearslong effort by a Russian troll farm to “sow division and discord in the U.S. political system,” it was the first federal case alleging continued foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Earlier Friday, American intelligence officials released a rare public statement asserting that Russia, China, Iran and other countries are engaged in ongoing efforts to influence U.S. policy and voters in future elections.

The statement didn’t provide details on those efforts. That stood in contrast with the criminal charges, which provided a detailed narrative of Russian activities. Russian activities have also been outlined in previous criminal cases.

A look at what is known about foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections:

​What is the US worried about?

The U.S. has a lot of concerns: ballot tampering, hacking into campaigns, open and covert attempts to sway voters.

Friday’s announcement didn’t suggest that electoral campaigns or systems were compromised. Instead, it spelled out a focus on foreign campaigns aimed at undermining confidence in democratic institutions.

The criminal charges detailed how a Russian troll farm created thousands of false social media profiles and email accounts that appeared to be from people inside the United States. While social media companies are making an effort to combat fake accounts and bogus news stories ahead of the upcoming elections, there is a concern from advocates that it may not be enough to combat the foreign interference.

​Is Russia meddling in US elections?

The criminal complaint provided a clear picture that there is still a hidden but powerful Russian social media effort aimed at spreading distrust for American political candidates and causing divisions on social issues such as immigration and gun control.

Prosecutors said a Russian woman, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, worked for the same social media troll farm indicted earlier this year by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose office is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. The case largely mirrors the one brought by the special counsel’s office against three Russian companies, including the Internet Research Agency, and 13 Russians, including a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Court papers describe how the operatives in Friday’s case would analyze U.S. news articles and decide how they would draft social media messages about those stories.

They also show that Russian trolls have stepped up their efforts with a better understanding of the U.S. political climate and messages that are no longer riddled with misspellings.

In 2016, Russian trolls were trying to help elect Republican Donald Trump and harm the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton, while also sowing discord in America.

The latest charges show that Russia is continuing to focus on the latter, instead of helping a particular candidate. The case detailed how the operatives would often sent messages with diverging viewpoints about the same issue from different accounts.

​What about Iran?

The Trump administration has accused Iran of all kinds of misconduct, including sponsoring terrorism and posing a threat to Middle Eastern nations.

But it hasn’t released evidence to support its claim that Iran is trying to sway U.S. elections.

The U.S. has previously accused Iranians of cyberattacks that appear unrelated to politics.

In March, the Justice Department announced that nine Iranians carried out a yearslong cyberattack to steal secrets from American companies, universities and the government. Prosecutors said the hackers had worked at the behest of the Iranian government-sponsored Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Among the targets were employees at the Department of Labor, the Federal Regulatory Commission and the states of Indiana and Hawaii.

That case came about two years after the Justice Department indicted seven Iranian hackers for attacking dozens of banks and a small dam near New York City.

​What is the threat from China?

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence charged that Russia’s influence attempts pale in comparison to covert and overt activities taken by China to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections. He accused China of trying to counter the administration’s tough trade policies against Beijing.

While many details of Russia’s covert actions have been released, the accusations against China have been mostly about open activities such as advertising supplements and targeted tariffs. Unlike the accusations against Russia, no details about covert Chinese activities have been disclosed.

The vice president noted that a multipage advertising supplement was inserted several weeks ago in the Des Moines Register in Iowa, a pivotal state in this year’s elections and the 2020 presidential election. The supplement “designed to look like news articles, cast our trade policies as reckless and harmful to Iowans,” Pence said.

He also charged that China responded to Trump’s tough trade policies with tariffs of its own designed to inflict maximum political damage.

Tensions between the U.S. and China have been high because of trade disputes, and Trump frequently criticizes China.

​Are foreign threats having an impact?

That remains unclear.

Intelligence officials have stressed that Americans should take steps to verify the information they read on social media and have called on technology companies to boost protections.

The national security agencies said they currently do not have any evidence that voting systems have been disrupted or compromised in ways that could result in changing vote counts or hampering the ability to tally votes in the midterms, which are 2½ weeks away.

“Some state and local governments have reported attempts to access their networks, which often include online voter registration databases, using tactics that are available to state and nonstate cyber actors,” they said.

But so far, they said, state and local officials have been able to prevent access or quickly mitigate these attempts.

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