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 JohnsonRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate Republicans defend Trump's response on Russian bounties 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 NielsenThe Seila Law case: Liberty and political firing Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Sen. Kennedy slams acting DHS secretary for lack of coronavirus answers 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 ClintonCarville repeats prediction that Trump will drop out of race What's behind Trump's slump? Americans are exhausted, for one thing Trump campaign reserves air time in New Mexico MORE and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRepublicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police Senators aim to limit Trump's ability to remove troops from Germany 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 CollinsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus GOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (R-Maine) said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month. 

Tuesday’s hearing comes days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report 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.