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Leading Democrats Call for Top Trump Administration Officials to Testify on Election Security

Jul 26, 2018
Press Release
In a letter to House Republican committee leaders, top Democrats call on their Republican colleagues to put patriotism above politics and protect our elections from attack

WASHINGTON, DC – In a new letter today, top Democrats called for a joint hearing on election security to investigate the threats facing elections in 2018 and the Trump administration’s plan to secure our elections from foreign interference.

The letter, from Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), and Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), notes that despite equivocations from the White House with respect to Russian involvement in the interference into our elections in 2016, the U.S. Intelligence Community – including top officials in the Trump administration – have clearly reiterated that Russia interfered with our elections in 2016 and continues to target the 2018 elections.

The Republican Congress has done little to defend against and counter the threat of Russian election interference. Earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats sounded the alarm on growing cyberattack threats against the United States, saying the “the warning lights are blinking red.” But just last week, House Republicans ignored his warning and rejected a proposal to fund elections security efforts at the state and local levels.

Since then -- just this week -- 21 state Attorneys General sent a bipartisan letter imploring Congress to provide additional funding to secure state election systems.  They warned about the “grave concern over the threat to the integrity of the American election system.”  They also made clear the need for Congress to act now: “We are concerned that many states lack the resources and tools they need to protect the polls.  Additional funding for voting infrastructure will not only allow states to upgrade election systems, but will also allow for a comprehensive security risk assessment.”

“As Members of the Committees that have oversight on this issue, we have a duty to investigate: 1) the threats facing our elections in 2018 and 2) the Trump administration’s plan to secure our election from foreign interference,” the members wrote.

“The evidence that Russia interfered in our elections in the past and will do so in the future continues to grow.”

The letter concludes: “We are under attack and the very foundation of our democracy is at stake. We urge you to put aside partisan politics and work with us to protect and defend our country from this ongoing attack. As Rod Rosenstein stated, ‘When we confront foreign interference in American elections it’s important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead think patriotically as Americans.’”

Specifically, the letter asks the relevant Republican Committee Chairmen to invite FBI Director Christopher Wray, Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Election Assistance Commission Chairman Tom Hicks to testify at a joint committee hearing to examine the vulnerabilities in our election system and identify what specific steps federal agencies are taking to address threats to our elections.

The full text of the letter can be found online here and below:

 

July 26, 2018

 

The Honorable Gregg Harper                                     The Honorable Bob Goodlatte

Chairman                                                                     Chairman

Committee on House Administration                         Committee on the Judiciary

United States House of Representatives                     United States House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515                                            Washington, D.C. 20515

 

The Honorable Trey Gowdy                                      The Honorable Michael McCaul

Chairman                                                                     Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform   Committee on Homeland Security

United States House of Representatives                     United States House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515                                            Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Chairman Harper, Chairman Goodlatte, Chairman Gowdy, and Chairman McCaul:

In recent days, while top officials in the Trump administration have clearly reiterated that Russia interfered with our elections in 2016 and are currently targeting the 2018 elections, the President has denied Putin’s involvement and the ongoing threat he poses.[1]  He appears to have changed his position on this question several times the past week—stating, in Helsinki, that he had “no reason to believe” the Russian government had meddled in the last elections, and proposing, just yesterday, that Putin will be working to undermine the current elections, but this time “pushing very hard for the Democrats.”[2]  Despite these equivocations, it is clear that Putin meddled in our elections and when a foreign power interferes in our elections, it is an attack on our nation and our democracy.  Election security is a national security issue, and it is time this Congress treated it like one. 

As Members of the Committees that have oversight on this issue, we have a duty to investigate: 1) the threats facing our elections in 2018 and 2) the Trump administration’s plan to secure our elections from foreign interference.  Accordingly, we respectfully request that you convene a joint hearing on election security and invite the following officials to testify:

  • Christopher Wray, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
  • Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence
  • Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
  • Tom Hicks, Chairman, Election Assistance Commission

The evidence that Russia interfered in our elections in the past and will do so in the future continues to grow.  On Friday, July 13th, Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued an indictment providing additional details on the election security attacks that took place in 2016.  The indictment stated that Russian hackers targeted an election software company as well as state and local election officials, stole information on 500,000 voters, and hacked into a state election board.[3]  On July 19th, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated at the Aspen Security Forum, “It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this . . . They are the ones trying to wreak havoc over our election process.”[4]  His comments were echoed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein hours later, “As Director Coats made clear, these actions are persistent, they are pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not.”[5] 

At the same time, we are concerned that the Trump administration is not doing enough to address vulnerabilities to our election systems.  The co-chair of the FBI’s election-meddling task force left the agency last month.[6]  Three other top cybersecurity officials at the FBI are retiring with more expected to leave soon.[7]  We need to hear from FBI Director Christopher Wray in order to ensure that the agency has a plan to replace the departing staff, and that the safety of our elections will not suffer in the interim. 

We were heartened to hear Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s remarks last week announcing new federal government efforts to identify, counter, and notify the public about Russian and other foreign interference in our election.[8]  This announcement coincided with the release of the “Report of the Attorney General’s Cyber Digital Task Force,” which discussed the threat of Russian election interference, outlined five categories of foreign influence operations, and described how different federal agencies are working to defend against and counter those operations.[9]  We need to hear from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein about this report and these initiatives in order to understand what specific steps federal agencies are taking to address threats to our elections.

In the past two weeks, however, we have also learned that certain election technology vendors with Russian ties may be vulnerable to a cyberattack. In Maryland, it was discovered that the vendor used to handle statewide voter registration, online ballot-delivery, and the website for unofficial election-night results has a Russian oligarch as its largest investor.[10]  In addition, ES&S, the top voting machine maker in the country, revealed that it had installed remote-access software on its systems from 2000-2006.[11]  Remote-access software makes systems more vulnerable to attack because a hacker can gain access to the system and introduce malicious code.[12]  Election technology vendors are unregulated at the federal level, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and EAC Chairman Tom Hicks should appear before Congress and explain what they are doing to ensure that election vendors are not being used by foreign actors seeking to interfere in our elections and that state and local election officials are updated, as necessary, as threat information evolves.

We are similarly concerned that, last week, House Republicans rejected a proposal to fund election security efforts at the state and local levels.[13]  The threat posed by the Russian government and other foreign actors is real, and we hoped that our colleagues would take it seriously.

We are under attack and the very foundation of our democracy is at stake.  We urge you to put aside partisan politics and work with us to protect and defend our country from this ongoing attack.  As Rod Rosenstein stated, “When we confront foreign interference in American elections it’s important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans.”[14]

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

                                   

Robert A. Brady                                                         Jerrold Nadler

Ranking Member                                                        Ranking Member

Committee on House Administration                         Committee on the Judiciary

 

 

Elijah Cummings                                                        Bennie Thompson

Ranking Member                                                        Ranking Member

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform   Committee on Homeland Security 

115th Congress