Week ahead: Senate Intel panel tackles election security

Week ahead: Senate Intel panel tackles election security
© Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled an open hearing on election security Wednesday morning, a topic attracting increasing attention as the 2018 midterm elections draw closer.

The committee has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election for more than a year, and also plans to soon release a public report on election security as part of its work.

The hearing will likely delve into what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is doing to engage with states and to help secure voter databases and other elections infrastructure from cyber threats.

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It will also likely touch on the security of voting machines, which are not connected to the internet but have nevertheless spurred debate following Russia's election meddling. A growing chorus of experts are calling for states to do away with paperless voting technology and replace it with machines that provide a paper backup to increase confidence in vote counts.

The witness list for the hearing has not yet been publicly announced.

It is unclear exactly when the committee will release its election security report, which will be the first public product of its probe into Russian interference.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the committee hoped to complete the report by March, and committee leaders have repeatedly referenced it in recent weeks.

"It's the committee's intent to make recommendations that will enhance the likelihood that the security of our election process is in place," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Rosenstein drama dominates the day | Biz, regulators focus on 5G revolution | New questions over Trump cyber strategy Key House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms Trump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' MORE (R-N.C.) said at a hearing on worldwide threats last month.

The committee is poised to have a busy week.

The lawmakers could hold a confirmation vote on President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE's choice to run the National Security Agency (NSA) as soon as this week.  

The vote would come after nominee Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the Army's current cyber chief, appeared before the panel on Thursday to address lawmakers' questions. Those questions spanned a number of topics including building the NSA's workforce, U.S. cyber strategy, and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

He was unanimously approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month to serve as both NSA director and commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

Both committees have jurisdiction over the nomination. If approved by the Intelligence Committee, the full Senate will vote on Nakasone's nomination.

Nakasone is widely respected and his confirmation process has shown no signs of contention. He appeared to skate through the Intelligence Committee's questioning session on Thursday morning.

On the House side, there will likely be more fallout between the Intelligence Committee members as the drafting of the Russian election interference report process continues to get underway.

Democrats are combing through the roughly 150-page draft report that Republicans handed them on Tuesday. They now have the opportunity to make suggested edits or changes and send it back to the majority.

But, the panel largely disagrees on key findings from the investigation and it is likely that the majority and minority will put out separate reports.

Republicans say their 73 witnesses and scores of documents indicate that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats accuse their colleagues of prematurely shutting down the probe in what they say is an attempt to shield the president and curb efforts to really determine what went down between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

After the back and forth process between Intelligence colleagues concludes, the report would still need to be scrubbed. It is still unclear when the findings will become public.

Two subcommittees housed within the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will host a joint hearing on Tuesday afternoon to examine the Department of Homeland Security's Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program, the government-wide program launched in 2012 that aims to protect networks from cyber threats.

 

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