Ryan schedules US election security briefing for lawmakers

Ryan schedules US election security briefing for lawmakers
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Trump fans the flames of white grievance Ex-White House spokesman Raj Shah joins Fox Corporation as senior vice president Trump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report MORE (R-Wis.) has arranged for top U.S. intelligence officials to brief members of Congress later this week on the Trump administration’s efforts to guard voting systems across the country from hackers.

The briefing comes amid increased fears about threats to the 2018 midterm elections following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, which U.S. officials have said involved hackers targeting state voting infrastructure.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities MORE, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray are set to brief lawmakers on Thursday evening, according to an aide to Ryan. The briefing will be unclassified and members-only, meaning it will be closed to the public.

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The briefing is expected to cover current threats to the U.S. election process and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) ongoing efforts to provide voluntary aid to states to secure their systems. Officials will also discuss what state election officials are doing to secure their respective systems.

Thursday's briefing is part of an effort by Republicans to show they are addressing the issue of election security after Democrats have accused GOP leaders and President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE — who has raged against the special counsel investigation into Russian interference — of not having done enough to counter the threat of Russian meddling.

Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDemocrats call for increased security after 'send her back' chants Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump MORE (Miss.), the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, blasted Ryan on Tuesday morning for what he described as an insufficient and “last minute” effort to address the issue.

Thompson charged that the unclassified nature of the briefing later this week would prevent officials from going into sufficient detail about what the administration is doing to protect voting systems from cyber threats.

“House Republicans have treated election security as a third rung issue for over a year, it is time for them to finally take this national security issue seriously,” Thompson said in a statement. “The next federal election is less than six months away.”

Officials say that Russia targeted digital systems involved in the election process in 21 states as part of a broader effort to interfere with the 2016 vote. They maintain that, in most cases, hackers merely probed for vulnerabilities and did not successfully breach systems; in a small number of states, like Illinois, actors were able to break in. 

Officials insist there is no evidence any vote totals were changed, and that hackers targeted systems not involved in vote tallying.

Since the 2016 election, DHS has been offering vulnerability assessments of digital systems and other assistance to states that request help securing their systems.

Nielsen, Coats and other officials briefed Trump on election security earlier in May.