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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse speaks at a hearing on Russian and the 2016 election. Photo: Samuel Corum / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Russia's success in waging its disinformation campaign during the 2016 presidential election stemmed largely from a web of government bureaucracy that placed too much confidence in American standing and institutions, according to The Washington Post.

Why it matters: Russia's success in influencing the 2016 election came as government officials couldn't agree on a legal, satisfactory course of action or counterattack — and, for the most part, they still haven't. That leaves the critical 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election similarly open to foreign targeting and disruption.

If you read only one paragraph: "U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin's ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn't appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions."

The big trends from WaPo's report:

  • Everything stems from the end of the Cold War, when American officials believed that Russia would be a friend going forward. And when relations later foundered, Russia was simply dismissed as a "third-rate regional power."
  • European nations had long warned of the Russian disinformation threat but were largely ignored. European representatives reacted with bemusement to a presentation by American officials on Russian disinformation at NATO headquarters shortly before Trump's inauguration.
  • It's not about supporting President Trump. Instead, Russia's goal is all about sowing discord in American society in order to distract the United States from reacting to Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.