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

Several Senate Republicans are pushing back on President Trump’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 Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Sen. Mike Rounds (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 Collins (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 Capito (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 Sasse (R-Neb.), another member of the Intelligence panel, praised Krebs in a statement, adding that he “obviously should not be fired.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) defended Krebs during an interview with CNN, calling him a “real professional” and someone that he’s “worked well with.”

“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 Rubio (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 Cruz (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 Burr (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 Graham (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 Whitehouse (D-R.I.) went as far as to suggest that the incoming Biden administration rehire him.

But the administration has defended the decision.

“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 Meadows 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.

Tags 2020 election Ben Sasse Christopher Krebs cybersecurity Donald Trump John Cornyn Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Mark Meadows Mike Rounds Mitch McConnell Richard Burr Rob Portman Sheldon Whitehouse Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Ted Cruz
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