Cybersecurity

Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump

Greg Nash

President Trump ousted Christopher Krebs, the top U.S. cybersecurity official, on Tuesday evening, disagreeing with Krebs’s statement affirming the security of the 2020 election.

Trump, who has refused to accept his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election earlier this month, said on Twitter that Krebs had been terminated “effective immediately.” Trump said a recent statement by the cyber chief about the security of the election was “highly inaccurate” and claimed, without evidence, that “there were massive improprieties and fraud  including dead people voting.”

“Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more,” the president wrote. “Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Krebs, a Trump appointee, had served as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since CISA’s establishment in 2018. Krebs previously helmed CISA’s predecessor agency, the National Protection and Programs Directorate.

The Hill and other news outlets reported last week that Krebs expected to be fired by the White House after attracting attention for his efforts to debunk conspiracies about voter fraud and the security of the election. 

CISA put out a statement Thursday from stakeholders and officials that affirmed that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history” and dispelled assertions that voting systems were in some way compromised, representing an implicit rebuke of assertions by the president and some of his supporters.

“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the officials emphasized. 

Krebs tweeted from his personal account Tuesday evening that he was “honored to serve.”

“We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow,” he added

Krebs had been at DHS since 2017. Prior to his time in federal government, he served as the director of cybersecurity policy on Microsoft’s government affairs team. He has focused on issues including shoring up election security and protecting critical infrastructure from attack, among other cyber initiatives.

Krebs’s removal will leave a tremendous void atop the federal agency that has served as a leading driver in the effort to secure U.S. elections and other cybersecurity priorities. He earned bipartisan acclaim during his time serving in the Trump administration and has been a trusted voice among security officials. 

Democrats pushed back hard against the decision to fire Krebs.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) tweeted that “Chris Krebs is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want protecting the security of our elections. It speaks volumes that the president chose to fire him simply for telling the truth.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called it “pathetic.”

“Throughout this election, the CISA and Director Krebs have worked diligently to safeguard our elections, provide vital support to state and local election officials, and inform the American people about what was true and what was not. In the best tradition of government service, they spoke truth to power and helped keep Americans and our institutions safe,” Schiff said in a statement.

“Instead of rewarding this great service, President Trump is retaliating against Director Krebs and other officials who did their duty,” he added. “It’s pathetic, but sadly predictable that upholding and protecting our democratic processes would be cause for firing.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Senate Democrats and serves as co-chairman of the congressionally established Cyberspace Solarium Commission, strongly condemned Krebs’s firing. King is a potential candidate to serve as director of national intelligence under Biden.

“By firing Mr. Krebs for simply doing his job, President Trump is inflicting severe damage on all Americans  who rely on CISA’s defenses, even if they don’t know it,” King said in a statement. “If there’s any silver lining in this unjust decision, it’s this: I hope that President-elect Biden will recognize Chris’s contributions, and consult with him as the Biden administration charts the future of this critically important agency.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over elections, said in a statement that “President Trump’s firing of Christopher Krebs is a gut punch to our democracy. Director Krebs has been praised by both Republicans and Democrats at the state and national level for protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure, including our election systems.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was one of the first Republicans to publicly condemn Krebs’s firing.

“Chris Krebs did a really good job — as state election officials all across the nation will tell you — and he obviously should not be fired. I’m particularly grateful for the work he did on the Cyber Solarium Commission to help the nation prepare for the future of war,” Sasse said in a statement. 

Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who worked with Krebs before stepping down from leading the panel, praised Krebs for his efforts but stopped short of criticizing Trump for firing him.

“Chris Krebs is a dedicated public servant who has done a remarkable job during a challenging time,” Burr said in a statement. “Chris and his team at CISA have worked diligently to strengthen our election infrastructure, helping to shore up vulnerabilities and build trust between State and Federal Governments. The creative and innovative campaign CISA developed to promote cybersecurity should serve as a model for other government agencies. Their efforts were essential in protecting the 2020 U.S. presidential election against threats of foreign interference. I’m grateful for all Chris has done and I wish him the best in his next chapter.”

Krebs’s departure adds to a growing list of Trump administration officials who have been fired or stepped down in the wake of the general election, with Trump firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper and eying letting go CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Trump has claimed without evidence that there was widespread voter fraud in the election and has refused to concede to Biden. Major news outlets projected Biden as the winner on Nov. 7.

Trump has through his Twitter account endorsed a baseless theory that Dominion Voting System, a voting software company used in several states, switched votes from him to Biden. Krebs has publicly pushed back on theories that votes were manipulated.

“ICYMI: On allegations that election systems were manipulated, 59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.’ #Protect2020,” Krebs tweeted earlier Tuesday. 

Updated at 8:52 p.m.

Tags 2020 election Adam Schiff Amy Klobuchar Angus King Ben Sasse Chris Krebs Christopher Wray cybersecurity Donald Trump Gina Haspel Joe Biden Mark Esper Mark Warner Pentagon Richard Burr

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video