Trump meets with Cabinet officials on election security

Trump meets with Cabinet officials on election security
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE met with members of his administration, including leaders of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, on Thursday to discuss election security, the White House said Friday. 

The meeting comes amid widespread concerns over the possibility of foreign interference in future elections, including this year's midterms, following Russia’s hacking and disinformation effort against the 2016 vote. The Russian effort included the targeting of digital state election systems.

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Trump met Thursday with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors Key GOP lawmaker throws cold water on Rosenstein impeachment With new immigration policy, Trump administration gutting the right to asylum MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenSomalis in US to keep protected status Hillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Maxine Waters defenders gather to counter far-right protest that doesn’t happen: report MORE, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria Hillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid Rosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors MORE and FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss election security, “including enhanced protections against malign foreign influence,” the White House said in a statement early Friday.

The Department of Homeland Security has been working to provide sensitive threat information and vulnerability assessments to states that request them, as part of a broader effort to protect election infrastructure going forward. 

“The President received an update about current Federal election security-related efforts, including information sharing and best practices like using paper ballots, issuing security clearances, and conducting security assessments,” the White House said in a statement early Friday.

“He also reiterated his guidance that election security is national security,” the White House said. “The Trump Administration will continue to provide the support necessary to the owners of election systems — State and local governments — to secure their election processes.”

Officials revealed last year that Russia had targeted voting systems in 21 states as part of a broader plot to interfere in the 2016 election. Most of the efforts involved only preparations for hacking, like probing for vulnerabilities, and did not lead to successful breaches.

Officials in Illinois experienced a successful attack on their voter registration database. None of the systems targeted were involved in vote tallying, and officials maintain that there is no evidence any votes were altered. 

Critics of the administration, particularly Democrats, have charged that the president isn’t doing enough to punish Russia for its actions or to protect against future interference. Trump has at times cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s activity, which in part concluded that Moscow acted to help him win the election. 

But the White House insisted Friday that the administration is “focused” on the issue of election security.

Trump’s chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, national security adviser John Bolton and White House counsel Don McGahn also attended Thursday’s meeting. 

Coats and other top intelligence officials have warned that Russia is likely to try to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. However, Homeland Security officials have said they have not yet seen evidence of attempts to breach state voting systems.

Congress sent $380 million to states to upgrade and secure their voting technology as part of a massive spending package approved in March. Nielsen and others have advocated for states to replace paperless voting machines with those that produce a paper backup to ensure confidence in the vote.