Senate panel to examine Trump officials' election security efforts

Senate panel to examine Trump officials' election security efforts
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The Senate Homeland Security Committee will meet Tuesday to examine the federal government’s cyber mission, focusing in part on work to secure election systems from cyberattacks, according to opening remarks from Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOn The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins GOP senator: Harley-Davidson is right to move some production overseas MORE (R-Wis.).

Lawmakers will have the opportunity to question a top cyber official at the Department of Homeland Security who is leading efforts to provide cyber vulnerability scans of election systems and other services to states that request them.

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“The midterm elections are fast approaching, and I am glad to see the Administration and DHS working diligently to engage with the states, election agencies, and election service providers,” Johnson will say, according to a copy of his planned remarks obtained by The Hill.

The hearing comes roughly a month after the Senate Intelligence Committee grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTop Ethics Dem calls for Nielsen to resign Michelle Wolf compares ICE to ISIS in new video The Memo: Putin furor sparks new questions on Kelly’s future MORE on election security as part of its broader investigation into Russia's election interference.

The hearing Tuesday morning will focus broadly on Homeland Security’s efforts to mitigate cyber threats to the federal government and private sector companies. 

“Cyberattacks targeting government agencies, private businesses, and individuals are increasing in frequency and scope,” Johnson will say. “It is critical for the United States to implement a strategy to deter malicious nation-state actors and cyber criminals.” 

Lawmakers are slated to hear testimony from Jeanette Manfra, a top cyber official at the Department of Homeland Security and Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues at the Government Accountability Office. 

They will also hear from Eric Rosenbach, who co-directs the Defending Digital Democracy Project, which was launched last year at Harvard’s Belfer Center by former Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Romney: Trump's remarks at Putin summit 'disgraceful and detrimental to democratic principles' Utah's largest paper compares child separation to war crimes in scathing editorial MORE campaign aides to secure elections and political campaigns. 

Homeland Security has been working with state and local election officials to secure digital election systems — such as voter databases — following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Moscow’s hackers tried to probe election systems in 21 states before the vote as part of its interference effort, according to Homeland Security. 

The department is offering to conduct remote cyber hygiene scans and more rigorous risk and vulnerability assessments of state systems. Officials are also working to give full security clearances to state election officials so they can share sensitive information on cybersecurity threats. 

While Homeland Security has described its election security mission as a priority, some lawmakers have criticized the department for not attacking the issue with enough urgency. 

“I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (R-Maine) said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month. 

Tuesday’s hearing comes days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE delivered his classified cybersecurity policy to Congress after pressure from lawmakers to spell out a comprehensive strategy for deterring and responding to attacks in cyberspace.

— This report was updated at 7:41 a.m.