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GOP breaks with Trump firing of cyber chief: Adds to 'confusion and chaos'

Several Senate Republicans are pushing back on President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE's decision to fire Chris Krebs, a top cybersecurity official, in a rare break with the administration.

The reactions from GOP senators, who generally are careful to stick closely to Trump, range from those offering support for Krebs to those openly breaking with Trump's decision to fire him.

"It’s the president’s prerogative but I think it just adds to the confusion and chaos, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that would like some return to a little bit more of a — I don’t even know what’s normal anymore. We’ll call it the next normal," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.).

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Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsPowell pushes back on GOP inflation fears Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March 11 GOP senators slam Biden pick for health secretary: 'No meaningful experience' MORE (R-S.D.) said Trump should be “very proud” on the administration’s work on election security and that Krebs had a “major role.”

“I was very disappointed when I found out that he’d been terminated,” Rounds said.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE (R-Maine) noted that Krebs's firing was the president’s decision, but called it a “terrible mistake.” 

“I don’t agree with it,” Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Biden's unity effort falters Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed MORE (R-W.Va.) added. “He’s kept us very well informed, he's been very professional. I've had several meetings with him ... and I'm appreciative of all of his work” 

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Key vote for Haaland's confirmation | Update on oil and gas leasing | SEC update on climate-related risk disclosure requirements Josh Hawley is a conservative without a clue Republican Party going off the rails? MORE (R-Neb.), another member of the Intelligence panel, praised Krebs in a statement, adding that he "obviously should not be fired."

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMurkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers Trump backs former campaign adviser for Ohio Republican Party chair MORE (R-Ohio) defended Krebs during an interview with CNN, calling him a "real professional" and someone that he's "worked well with."

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"I think he was very good. I think what he was trying to do in an unprecedented way was to connect with every state in the country, and give them what they needed to protect and have a firewall in place to protect against cyberattacks," Portman said.

Other GOP senators were more tepid, noting they thought Krebs had done a good job but that it was up to the president whether he stayed in the position.

Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRep. Stephanie Murphy says she's 'seriously considering' 2022 challenge to Rubio The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Sanders votes against Biden USDA nominee Vilsack MORE (R-Fla.) said his interactions with Krebs were "positive" and he doesn't "have any criticism of his work" but that it was up to Trump whether to fire him.

“I don’t have any problem with the job Krebs did, but all these people work for the president. There’s nothing illegal or improper in that sense in him having people work underneath him that he wants to work for him," Rubio said.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Shelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination MORE (R-Texas) added that it was a decision about what officials Trump wanted in office but "from everything I saw it appeared that he did an able job in a difficult and important role."

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Overnight Health Care: COVID-19 vaccine makers pledge massive supply increase | Biden health nominee faces first Senate test | White House defends reopening of facility for migrant kids MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, became one of the first GOP senators to praise Krebs on Tuesday night, while not criticizing his firing, calling him a "dedicated public servant who has done a remarkable job during a challenging time."

Krebs had served as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security since CISA’s establishment in 2018. But he was widely expected to be fired over efforts to debunk conspiracies about voter fraud and the security of the election.

Trump, in the tweet announcing his ousting, accused Krebs of releasing a statement about the election that was "highly inaccurate."

CISA put out a statement affirming that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history." The statement also said that there was "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," breaking with the president.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Progressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general MORE (R-S.C.) said firing Krebs was Trump's prerogative but that he doesn't "think there was any interference in our election by foreign powers."

"Now there may be some irregularities at the state level, but I believe that this election was secure when it came to foreign influence," Graham said.

Democrats have lambasted the decision to fire Krebs, and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseTucker Carlson bashes CNN, claims it's 'more destructive' than QAnon Garland seeks to draw sharp contrast with Trump-era DOJ Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses MORE (D-R.I.) went as far as to suggest that the incoming Biden administration rehire him.

But the administration has defended the decision.

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"I can tell you, as with any personnel decision, they're a lot more complex than what may be just a headline here," White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE told reporters on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn't respond to a question about Krebs as he walked between his office and the Senate floor.

But he defended the security of the 2020 election, which he said was "smoothly conducted," during a weekly press conference on Tuesday and pointed to it as an improvement over 2016.

"One of the great success stories of the current administration is ... the dramatic improvement from 2016 under the Obama administration to 2020 under the Trump administration, the coordination between Homeland Security and secretaries of State in charge of conducting elections all around the country," McConnell said. 

--Updated at 1:35 p.m.