Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings

Republicans say they're satisfied with 2020 election security after classified briefings
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Congressional Republicans are expressing confidence that the 2020 elections will be secure, despite strong protests from Democrats that more needs to be done.

House and Senate members received separate classified briefings from senior administration officials on Wednesday, during which the plans for securing the 2020 elections were outlined in the wake of Russia’s extensive interference ahead of the 2016 vote. 

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House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes MORE (R-La.) told reporters that while the U.S. must be “very vigilant” against election threats from foreign governments, “the agencies have the tools they need, and I am confident they are addressing the threats.”

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE who has previously supported additional election security legislation, said that he was “very impressed” by the administration’s efforts ahead of 2020. 

“They all said the president is giving them every authority they’ve asked for. No interference from the White House,” Graham said. 

While none of the administration officials involved spoke with the press, several lawmakers confirmed that they said during the closed-door meetings they didn’t need additional legislation or extra funding from Congress. 

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Homeland Security chairman calls on new Trump aide to reestablish cyber coordinator House Democrat urges Trump to address online extremism at UN MORE (D-Miss.) told reporters that the officials said “the resources are available to secure the 2020 elections,” and that they do not need anything else from lawmakers at this time. 

Thompson’s counterpart on the committee, ranking member Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: 8chan owner defends platform before Congress | Facebook launches dating feature | New York City sues T-Mobile | Top NSA cyber official names ransomware as 2020 threat | Blue Dog Dems urge action on election security 8chan owner defends platform in testimony before Congress Conservatives lash out at CNN for hiring Andrew McCabe MORE (R-Ala.), added that the briefing “gave some confidence to me that they’re on top of this.”

Election security legislation has been stalemated for months on Capitol Hill amid a standoff between House Democrats and Senate GOP leadership. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts Liberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' MORE (R-Ky.) has opposed passing legislation on election security, and on Wednesday further lowered expectations that the briefing would manage to overcome the gap between parties, focusing his criticism on the Obama administration ahead of the briefing. 

“The more Obama gave, the more [Russian President Vladimir] Putin took. Among those consequences, as we all know, was that Putin felt sufficiently emboldened to seek to interfere in our 2016 presidential election,” McConnell said.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump McConnell support for election security funds leaves Dems declaring victory Paul objection snags confirmation of former McConnell staffer MORE (R-Mo.), who has primary jurisdiction over election security in the Senate, said after the briefing that he did not expect any election security legislation to move in the chamber. 

“New federal election laws would not be the right thing to do, so I assume we’d have no legislation like that come through the Rules Committee,” Blunt said.

Trying to bring up legislation could put Republicans at odds with Trump, who they’ve warned conflates concerns about election meddling with questioning his 2016 White House win. 

Trump has touted his administration’s efforts to secure the 2020 vote, vowing in 2018 that “we’re going to take strong action to secure our election systems and the process” while rolling out an executive order on protecting U.S. elections. 

But Democrats in both chambers pushed back against Republican confidence over the issue.

“Interference in our election is a very, very serious problem and it is obvious that we have to do a lot more at both the public sector and the private sector levels to combat it. I am very worried about what the Russians and others might do in 2020,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit MORE (D-Va.) added that, in addition to more legislation, the country needs “a White House that would finally acknowledge both the extent of what the Russians did in 2016 and publicly acknowledge that the ... conclusion of the intelligence community is that the Russians will be back.”  

Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyPelosi to introduce plan to lower cost of prescription drugs: report Democrats ignore Asian American and Pacific Islander voters at their peril Blue Dog Democrats urge action on election security MORE (D-Fla.), who introduced election security legislation with Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday, told reporters that the briefing “underscored” the importance of addressing the issue. 

The members were briefed by Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, FBI Director Christopher Wray, U.S. Cyber Command chief and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano.

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Though House Democrats have been passing a myriad of election security legislation since taking over in January, they’ve run directly into a Senate buzzsaw, where Democrats are unable to pass legislation on their own. 

A few key Republicans broke ranks and endorsed passing additional election security legislation. 

House Administration Committee ranking member Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisGroups push lawmakers for hearings on voting machine security House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 House Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad MORE (R-Ill.) told reporters that “as a policymaker, we should do more.” Davis recently introduced legislation that would make funds available to states to update aging election infrastructure. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLiberal super PAC launches browser extension replacing 'Mitch McConnell' with 'Moscow Mitch' Trump faces difficult balancing act with reelection campaign Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE (R-Fla.) said he wants to pass his legislation with Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenProgressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Democratic candidates are building momentum for a National Climate Bank MORE (D-Md.) that would slap sanctions on future election meddlers. 

“I hope we can restart some momentum on it,” Rubio said, “because I don’t think you’ll find anybody in the national security field who doesn’t think it’s the best thing we can do.”