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House Science aides rebuff Dem snark on Trump cybersecurity

House Science aides rebuff Dem snark on Trump cybersecurity
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Last week, Democrats on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent panel leadership a snarky letter positing that, if the committee was so interested in Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump jokingly blames 'Crooked Hillary' after his rally mic stops working The Hill's Campaign Report: Two weeks to the election l Biden leads in new polls as debate looms l Trump pressures DOJ on Hunter Biden Trump remarks put pressure on Barr MORE's email server scandal last year, it must also be interested in security shortcomings at the Trump White House.  

Monday, on a conference call previewing a a Tuesday hearing on cybersecurity, a GOP committee aide responded in kind. 

“From a certain standpoint, [the letter] can be seen as a positive sign because last Congress we undertook to look at the OPM cyber attack and breach, multiple breaches at the [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation], attacks at the IRS and so on and so forth. And while we were looking at those things, the minority was telling us we were off on the wrong track, we were turning cybersecurity into politics and all the investigations into [Office of Personnel Management] and so forth were awful and illegitimate,” the aide said. 

“So any expression of support for the committee to discharge its authorities — and we do have them as far as [the Federal Information Security Management Act] and cybersecurity is concerned — is a good thing. “

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Recent media reports claim President Trump continues to use his old, unsecured smartphone despite being issued a secure one, that Trump aides use private email accounts and that the president’s Twitter account had not been properly secured. 

Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Don Beyer (Va.), and Dan Lipinski (Ill.) penned the letter to suggest using the Tuesday hearing to discuss these issues. 

“We are writing to inform the Committee of further opportunities to investigate Executive Branch cybersecurity issues that have been of intense interest to you in the past,” they wrote. 

A Democratic Science staffer said she anticipated the Democrats would ask questions along those lines Tuesday. 

The hearing is set to discuss recommendations to improve cybersecurity from the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity and Center for Strategic International Studies published in December and January, respectively. The commission report was ordered by then-President Obama in April to provide some suggestions for the next administration. 

Aides for the Science Committee note that the Committee will not be able to discuss an important third document — a hotly anticipated cybersecurity executive order that has been in the works. 

Heading into Tuesday's hearing, Democratic staff pushed back on the characterization that the party was soft on cyber security issues, noting, for example, that Democrats took a hard line on the OPM and FDIC breaches.

"I understand you just arrived at FDIC in November and that the [Chief Information Officer's] office has suffered from a lack of consistent leadership for some time," said Beyer in a May hearing addressing a new CIO at the FDIC, an agency House Science alleges has been uncooperative with the committee. 

"You are now the fourth CIO the FDIC has had in the past four years. I hope that you will be able to bring some stability to that office. But equally important is establishing a solid foundation built on reliability and openness with Congress. I hope that you will strive to do that as well."

—Morgan Chalfant contributed. Updated Tuesday at 10:22 a.m.