Senate panel to examine Trump officials' election security efforts

Senate panel to examine Trump officials' election security efforts
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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 JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills 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.

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“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 NielsenFEMA head to reimburse government for use of federal vehicles: report US to prioritize attacks against foreign adversaries under new cyber strategy Paddlers sue Trump over frequent golf visits shutting down the Potomac River 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 ClintonGraham: There's a 'bureaucratic coup' taking place against Trump Fox News poll shows Dems with edge ahead of midterms Poll: Democrats in position to retake the House MORE and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMaher makes million donation to Democratic Senate super PAC Poll: House GOP candidate leads in California swing district Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms 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 CollinsKavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report Dems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage MORE (R-Maine) said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month. 

Tuesday’s hearing comes days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser 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.