Trump meets with Cabinet officials on election security

Trump meets with Cabinet officials on election security
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE met with members of his administration, including leaders of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, on Thursday to discuss election security, the White House said Friday. 

The meeting comes amid widespread concerns over the possibility of foreign interference in future elections, including this year's midterms, following Russia’s hacking and disinformation effort against the 2016 vote. The Russian effort included the targeting of digital state election systems.

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Trump met Thursday with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Press: Mueller closes in on Trump Mueller's findings don't matter MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenOver 30 cities oppose Trump proposal on immigration benefits Internet gambling addiction is a looming crisis John Kelly to leave White House at year's end MORE, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsDems slam Trump for siding with Saudi Arabia in Khashoggi killing Dem senator demands public intelligence assessment on Khashoggi killing Hillicon Valley: Official warns midterm influence could trigger sanctions | UK, Canada call on Zuckerberg to testify | Google exec resigns after harassment allegations | Gab CEO defends platform | T-Mobile, Sprint tailor merger pitch for Trump MORE and FBI Director Christopher Wray to discuss election security, “including enhanced protections against malign foreign influence,” the White House said in a statement early Friday.

The Department of Homeland Security has been working to provide sensitive threat information and vulnerability assessments to states that request them, as part of a broader effort to protect election infrastructure going forward. 

“The President received an update about current Federal election security-related efforts, including information sharing and best practices like using paper ballots, issuing security clearances, and conducting security assessments,” the White House said in a statement early Friday.

“He also reiterated his guidance that election security is national security,” the White House said. “The Trump Administration will continue to provide the support necessary to the owners of election systems — State and local governments — to secure their election processes.”

Officials revealed last year that Russia had targeted voting systems in 21 states as part of a broader plot to interfere in the 2016 election. Most of the efforts involved only preparations for hacking, like probing for vulnerabilities, and did not lead to successful breaches.

Officials in Illinois experienced a successful attack on their voter registration database. None of the systems targeted were involved in vote tallying, and officials maintain that there is no evidence any votes were altered. 

Critics of the administration, particularly Democrats, have charged that the president isn’t doing enough to punish Russia for its actions or to protect against future interference. Trump has at times cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s activity, which in part concluded that Moscow acted to help him win the election. 

But the White House insisted Friday that the administration is “focused” on the issue of election security.

Trump’s chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, national security adviser John Bolton and White House counsel Don McGahn also attended Thursday’s meeting. 

Coats and other top intelligence officials have warned that Russia is likely to try to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. However, Homeland Security officials have said they have not yet seen evidence of attempts to breach state voting systems.

Congress sent $380 million to states to upgrade and secure their voting technology as part of a massive spending package approved in March. Nielsen and others have advocated for states to replace paperless voting machines with those that produce a paper backup to ensure confidence in the vote.