Congress hears sinister tale of Russia election meddling

As the Senate panel was meeting, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee that the Democratic National Committee spurned offers of help from his agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the party operation was hacked previous year.

Johnson, who served under President Barack Obama, is testifying about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Jeanette Manfra, Homeland Security undersecretary for cybersecurity, said there is evidence that 21 state election systems were targeted, but she told the Senate intelligence committee she couldn't disclose the identities of the states because that was up to the states.

"I pressed my staff to know whether DHS was sufficiently proactive, and on the scene helping the DNC identify the intruders and patch vulnerabilities", Johnson said in a written statement submitted to the House committee ahead of his testimony.

CBS News' Emily Tillett reports that Dr. Sam Liles, acting director of the Cyber Division of DHS, told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that prior to the election, DHS had no indication that any adversaries, including the Russian government, were planning activities that would change the outcome of the election.

He said Russia's efforts convinced him to sign onto an October 7 statement publicly blaming the Kremlin for what had happened, even though that might be perceived as "taking sides" or "challenging the integrity of the election itself".

In fact, some of the states may not even know they were targeted.

Johnson described his discussions with state election officials about ensuring the integrity of the voting process.

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.

Johnson was homeland security chief for the Democratic president from December 2013 to January 2017.

He added: "In retrospect, it would have been easy for me to say I should have brought a sleeping bag and camped in front of the DNC".

However, federal officials would not disclose which states were victims of hacking attempts, other than Arizona and IL, which were revealed previous year to have been attacked.

"I think the primary goal (of the 2016 effort) in my mind was to sow discord, and to try to de-legitimize our free and fair election process", Priestap said.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Johnson testified that multiple secretaries of states turned down his offer and viewed any aid as the federal government trying to Big Brother the election.

Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of MI, described the work he and colleagues had done exploring state computer systems with a view toward helping improve their security.

American elections are highly decentralized. "It just didn't get the attention that I would have preferred it get, because we were in the midst of a campaign where the press and the voters were focused on lots of other things, like 11-year-old videos".

He said favoring certain candidates over another has been part of Moscow's playbook since the Cold War, but on targeting state election infrastructure, he said that was new in the US.

"I want to assure you and all Americans that election officials across the United States are taking cybersecurity very seriously", said Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, the president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday refused to say whether Mr Trump believes Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election.

Johnson told lawmakers that the Department of Homeland Security didn't perform an analysis after the election about whether the vote had been manipulated.

The House Intelligence Committee also held a hearing Wednesday to examine the Russian interference in the 2016 election.

After blaming Obama for the Russian election interference, Trump then claimed that the election interference was a Democratic hoax, which means that Trump now believes that climate change and the Russia scandal aren't real.


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