The Latest: Former Homeland boss outlines Russia threat – Washington Post
U.S. officials have outlined the threat Russia posed to the 2016 vote for the White House, describing efforts to hack into election systems in 21 states and to fill the internet with misinformation.
Officials also revealed what appeared to be a breakdown in communications about how severe the threat appeared, and they reported tensions the Obama administration faced in trying to publicly warn of meddling in the face of a skeptical Donald Trump.
Jeh Johnson, the former head of the Homeland Security Department, told members of the House intelligence committee that because Trump “was predicting that the election was going to be rigged,” the Obama administration was concerned that a public warning could end up challenging the election’s integrity.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say they’ve had a productive meeting with Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
A group of lawmakers, including the committee’s chairman and top Democrat, met with Mueller on Wednesday to ensure that their separate investigations would not interfere with each other.
They say “both parties have committed to keeping an open dialogue.”
Separately, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe told the House Appropriations Committee he is confident that Mueller is receiving the resources he needs for the investigation.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has finished his meeting with leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a secure room in the Capitol.
Mueller was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to discuss his investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Mueller met for about an hour with the top four Republicans and Democrats on the committee.
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said it was an introductory meeting aimed at working to ensure the congressional investigations don’t conflict with the one led by Mueller.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says cyberattacks orchestrated by the Russian government did not alter any ballots, ballot counts or the reporting of election results.
But Johnson tells the House Intelligence committee that he doesn’t know whether the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails and other Moscow-directed interference “did in fact alter public opinion, and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election.”
Johnson tells the panel that U.S. voting systems remain vulnerable to future cyberattacks. He’s urging lawmakers to grapple with the problem and to shield a pillar of American democracy.
He says, “We have to learn.”
Johnson says “the Russians will be back” and possibly other “bad cyber actors,” too, to meddle in future elections.
Johnson served as DHS secretary from December 2013 to January 2017.
The president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State says state election officials are only now learning about the scope of the Russian hacking during last year’s election.
Connie Lawson, the current secretary of state for Indiana, says a recently leaked report purportedly from the National Security Agency suggests election-related hacking penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously known. As a result, some 122 local election offices received phishing emails.
She says this runs counter to assurances DHS gave state election officials in phone calls during August, September and October that no credible threat existed in the fall of 2016.
Lawson also told the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday that the government is not sharing classified details about the breach with state officials.
Jeh Johnson, the former Homeland Security chief, says he wasn’t aware that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, asked Johnson if former FBI Director Jim Comey would have opened such an inquiry without an evidence for doing so.
Johnson says Comey would not have made such a move lightly.