Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day
Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday said that adversaries were working to interfere in U.S. elections either on or after Election Day, adding to recent warnings from other top federal officials about election threats.
“WARNING. The bulk of disinformation attacks prepared by our adversaries were designed for the days before & just after Election Day,” Rubio tweeted. “They may come faster than they can be spotted & called out, so word to the wise, the more outlandish the claim, the likelier it’s foreign influence.”
A spokesperson for Rubio did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on Rubio’s tweet.
A spokesperson for Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) told The Hill that Warner “concurs wholeheartedly with Senator Rubio’s tweet.”
Rubio’s warning comes a week after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, alongside other top officials including FBI Director Christopher Wray, announced that Russia and Iran had gained access to U.S. voter registration data and in Iran’s case were using it to target potential U.S. voters with threatening emails.
Rubio and Warner issued a joint statement following the announcement underscoring Senate unity around combating foreign election interference threats.
“It is clear that Iran is now actively seeking to sow dissent and divide us, much like Russia did in 2016 and continues to do today,” Rubio and Warner said. “To the American people and the media, we reiterate the need to be skeptical of sensationalist, last-minute claims about election infrastructure. State, local, and federal officials, and partners in social media and tech, should be proud of joint efforts to shut down Iranian and Russian efforts.”
They emphasized that “to our adversaries, we reiterate DNI Ratcliffe’s warning against interfering in America’s electoral process. Republicans and Democrats are united when we say that continued attempts to sow dissent, cast doubt on election results, or disrupt our election systems and infrastructure will necessitate a severe response.”
Election security has been a mounting concern since 2016, when Russian agents launched a sweeping and sophisticated interference campaign designed to sway the vote toward now-President Trump that included vast hacking efforts and a sweeping disinformation campaign on social media.
The Senate Intelligence Committee carried a years-long bipartisan investigation into this election interference that resulted in five reports, with the last report released to the public in August.
Election interference warnings have come from multiple federal government sources, along with the private sector, over the past few months.
William Evanina, the director of the National Counterterrorism and Security Center, issued a statement in August assessing that Russia, Iran, and China were actively interfering in U.S. elections. Microsoft in September said that it had seen evidence that hackers based in Russia, Iran and China were targeting political groups, including the presidential campaigns of President Trump and of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Acting Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf also sounded the alarm around increasing election interference efforts around Election Day during an interview with CBS News on Tuesday.
“We are almost a week out from Election Day, so this is the prime opportunity for any adversary, whether it’s Russia, whether it’s Iran, or it’s a cyber actor,” Wolf said, noting that the federal government “remains on high alert” to election interference from Russia, Iran, and potential cyber criminals.
“Is that to say that they won’t try anything else? Absolutely not, we are anticipating that they might,” Wolf added about potential foreign interference.
DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security (CISA) and the FBI have rolled out a series of joint public service announcements over the past month warning of potential foreign election interference, most recently warning last week that a Russian state-sponsored hacking group was targeting U.S. government systems and the aviation industry.
The two agencies have also warned that foreign actors and cybercriminals were likely to spread disinformation around election results this year.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have repeatedly called on the Trump administration to make more information about election threats available to the public, with top Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alleging that Russia was the key player in election interference but that federal officials are trying to play down its involvement.
“Russia is the villain here from what we have seen in the public domain,” Pelosi said during a press conference last week. “Iran is a bad actor but in no way equivalent. And they always try to find some equivalence to protect their friend, Russia.”