Hillicon Valley: Election interference report looms large for Trump | NORAD to track Santa even under shutdown | Uber's driverless cars return to road after fatal accident

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

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THE HOLIDAYS ARE AROUND THE CORNER and we are off for the holidays. We appreciate all our readers who have followed Hillicon Valley through 2018. We will be back up and running on Jan. 2. Until then, go wild with eggnog and cyber-safe online shopping. It's a busy day in Washington, dominated by the shutdown drama, but there's also some tech and cyber news.

 

MIDTERM TEST: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE is about to be told whether the U.S. intelligence community believes foreign interference took place during last month's midterm elections.

Under an executive order signed by Trump earlier this year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will deliver an assessment on election security to the White House on Friday, marking the second time officials will have determined whether there was foreign meddling in a U.S. general election.

If officials find that interference took place -- a prediction already being made by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle -- it will pose a major test for Trump, who has been criticized for not doing enough to combat meddling from U.S. adversaries.

"I don't think there's any doubt that Russia's influence efforts are ongoing," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAnother VPOTUS tries for POTUS: What does history tell us? Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress Tensions swirl around Iran as administration to brief Congress MORE (R-Fla.) said Wednesday. "They view it as part of their broader strategy, it's a key part of their tactics they use around the world.

"I'll wait for the DNI to issue their report on the findings, but I think you'll find that they were less successful but nonetheless active," he added.

A spokesperson for DNI confirmed to The Hill that the intelligence community will submit its assessment on election interference to the White House on Friday. But it's not clear whether the report will be made public.

There are hints as to what officials will conclude.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE said this month that Russia had interfered in the midterm elections, which returned Democrats to the majority in the House for the first time in eight years.

And shortly before Election Day, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against a Russian national for her alleged role in operating an influence campaign against U.S. elections, including the midterms.

Lawmakers said this week that they believe that Russia also meddled in the midterms, but not to the extent that it was involved in the 2016 presidential election.

"Let's see what they report happened, let's see how resilient we were and then we'll decide what next steps are," said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineIraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran Senate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget MORE (Va.), the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2016.

He noted that Congress appropriated $380 million for election security earlier this year, allowing states to add resources aimed at securing their voting systems.

But that funding arrived too late for some states to use it before the midterms.

Congress also failed to pass any election security legislation beyond that additional funding, meaning federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and state officials ended up taking the lead on trying to secure election systems. We've got more on the report here.

 

BUT THE SLEIGH WILL BE GROUNDED: Santa will still be tracked across the skies on Christmas Eve, even if the government shuts down.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced Friday it will track Santa's route for the 63rd year whether or not Congress passes a spending bill to avert a government shutdown.

A government shutdown will go into effect Friday at midnight if Congress does not pass a spending bill.

A stopgap spending bill was passed in the House that included more than $5 billion in funding for a border wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. That bill appears to be dead on arrival in the Senate.

President Trump has said he will not sign any bill that does not include funding for a border wall.

NORAD receives funding from the Department of Defense, which has a full year of funding and will not stop operating if the government shuts down. More here.

 

UBER'S DRIVERLESS CARS BACK ON ROADS MONTHS AFTER ACCIDENT: Uber's self-driving cars are back on the road less than a year after a fatal accident curbed the testing program.

The vehicles are back on the road in Pittsburgh for a pilot program nine months after one of its self-driving cars fatally struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., according to Reuters. Pennsylvania gave Uber permission to resume testing.

"Over the past nine months, we've made safety core to everything we do," Eric Meyhofer, Uber's head of advanced technologies, said in a statement posted on Medium. "This required a lot of introspection and took some time. Now we are ready to move forward."

Two vehicles are being tested in Pittsburgh on a one-mile loop in the city, with more expected to be added in the coming months. The cars will have two safety drivers in them at all times. We've got more on Uber here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Christmas in space: How Apollo 8 mission saved 1968.

A LIGHTER CLICK: If the shutdown happens, key services like this one will still be carried out...

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

An anonymous chat app used by employees at top tech companies was left exposed for weeks. (TechCrunch)

2018 was the year of 5G hype. The 5G reality is yet to come. (The Washington Post)

How efforts to improve Alexa's communication skills led the at-home device to talk murder, sex. (Reuters)

Indian government downplays allowing its agencies to surveil all computers in home country. (BuzzFeed)

The 2018 Good Tech Awards. (The New York Times)