Senate panel to examine Trump officials' election security efforts

Senate panel to examine Trump officials' election security efforts
© Getty

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will meet Tuesday to examine the federal government’s cyber mission, focusing in part on work to secure election systems from cyberattacks, according to opening remarks from Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFauci calls Ron Johnson's AIDS comment 'preposterous': 'I don't have any clue of what he's talking about' Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' It's time to bury ZombieCare once and for all MORE (R-Wis.).

Lawmakers will have the opportunity to question a top cyber official at the Department of Homeland Security who is leading efforts to provide cyber vulnerability scans of election systems and other services to states that request them.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The midterm elections are fast approaching, and I am glad to see the Administration and DHS working diligently to engage with the states, election agencies, and election service providers,” Johnson will say, according to a copy of his planned remarks obtained by The Hill.

The hearing comes roughly a month after the Senate Intelligence Committee grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenUS to restart 'Remain in Mexico' program following court order Far-left bullies resort to harassing, shaming Kyrsten Sinema — it won't work Ex-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP MORE on election security as part of its broader investigation into Russia's election interference.

The hearing Tuesday morning will focus broadly on Homeland Security’s efforts to mitigate cyber threats to the federal government and private sector companies. 

“Cyberattacks targeting government agencies, private businesses, and individuals are increasing in frequency and scope,” Johnson will say. “It is critical for the United States to implement a strategy to deter malicious nation-state actors and cyber criminals.” 

Lawmakers are slated to hear testimony from Jeanette Manfra, a top cyber official at the Department of Homeland Security and Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues at the Government Accountability Office. 

They will also hear from Eric Rosenbach, who co-directs the Defending Digital Democracy Project, which was launched last year at Harvard’s Belfer Center by former Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBen Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering Republican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema MORE and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney praises Biden's boycott of Beijing Olympics White House announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics US expected to announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics soon: report MORE campaign aides to secure elections and political campaigns. 

Homeland Security has been working with state and local election officials to secure digital election systems — such as voter databases — following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Moscow’s hackers tried to probe election systems in 21 states before the vote as part of its interference effort, according to Homeland Security. 

The department is offering to conduct remote cyber hygiene scans and more rigorous risk and vulnerability assessments of state systems. Officials are also working to give full security clearances to state election officials so they can share sensitive information on cybersecurity threats. 

While Homeland Security has described its election security mission as a priority, some lawmakers have criticized the department for not attacking the issue with enough urgency. 

“I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection Hillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package Language requiring companies to report cyberattacks left out of defense bill MORE (R-Maine) said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month. 

Tuesday’s hearing comes days after President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE delivered his classified cybersecurity policy to Congress after pressure from lawmakers to spell out a comprehensive strategy for deterring and responding to attacks in cyberspace.

— This report was updated at 7:41 a.m.