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Judiciary Dems demand immediate hearings on election hacking

Judiciary Dems demand immediate hearings on election hacking
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are demanding “immediate” hearings on cyber vulnerabilities in U.S. election infrastructure, amid sustained concerns about the prospect of Russian meddling in future elections.

The lawmakers wrote to Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteRosenstein to appear for House interview next week Fusion GPS co-founder pleads the Fifth following House GOP subpoena House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein MORE (R-Va.) on Thursday asking him to call leaders of the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State before the committee to explain what steps the Trump administration “may or may not be taking to ensure the integrity of our state and federal elections.” 

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“We believe the threat is urgent,” wrote the Democrats, led by ranking member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). “We cannot afford to ignore the mounting evidence of a coordinated effort to undermine the most basic and essential aspects of democratic process.”

The letter cited an interview with top Homeland Security cyber official Jeanette Manfra published by NBC News on Wednesday, in which she acknowledged that Russian hackers successfully penetrated a small number of voter registration databases ahead of the 2016 elections. It had already been reported that Moscow hacked into voter rolls in Arizona and Illinois. 

Officials in Arizona took the state database offline for several days after discovering hackers had delivered malware to a county election official's computer, but maintain the actual database was never breached.

The letter also pointed to recent statements by Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonWatchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US Trump administration rigging the game, and your retirement fund could be the loser Haley’s exit sends shockwaves through Washington MORE and CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSaudis say journalist killed in ‘fight’ at consulate; 18 detained Pompeo asks Mexico to help tackle migration ‘crisis’ Trump: 'FAKE NEWS' that Pompeo heard tape of Saudi journalist's death MORE that Moscow is likely to meddle in future U.S. elections. 

The Democratic lawmakers also accused the Justice Department of taking little “if any” steps to secure election systems, citing previous testimony from Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsBeto O'Rourke on impeachment: 'There is enough there to proceed' Rosenstein to appear for House interview next week Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure MORE that the U.S. is not in the position it needs to be in to stop future Russian interference.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has told lawmakers that the bureau is looking to “get in front” of the threat going forward. Wray has set up a “foreign influence task force” within the bureau to monitor the issue and agents are engaging with other federal officials as well as international partners to understand and disrupt meddling efforts. 

Meanwhile, Homeland Security is providing cyber vulnerability testing and other services to state officials that request help in securing their voting infrastructure, as part of the department’s decision to designate election infrastructure as “critical” one year ago.

The department has confirmed that Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states leading up to the election. Most of the targeting involved preparations for hacking, such as probing for vulnerabilities. None of the systems targeted were involved in vote tabulations.

This post was updated at 2:15 p.m.