A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says he is worried that the Russians “never left,” raising the specter that Moscow is looking to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections through cyber or other means.
“I am concerned that the Russians never left,” Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyHouse Democrats urge Pelosi to prioritize aid for gyms House Intel Democrats express doubts about completing Afghan evacuation by deadline Gyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid MORE (D-Ill.) told CBS News when asked about his concerns about threats to November's midterms.
Quigley also alleged that Russia-linked hackers breached “somewhere between 20 and 40 state board of elections,” including the Illinois voter database, in 2016 and said that states are not prepared for future interference efforts by Russia.
“First, they attacked our election infrastructure. They hacked into somewhere between 20 and 40 state board of elections, including, in August of 2016, my own state of Illinois. They hacked and dumped emails into political parties and individuals. They weaponized social media,” Quigley told Michael Morell, host of CBS News’s “Intelligence Matters” podcast and former acting director of the CIA.
“This is a great concern,” he said.
The Department of Homeland Security has said that Russian hackers targeted election systems in 21 states as part of a broader plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and, in a small number of cases, actually breached state systems. One such successful attack was directed at Illinois’s state voter registration database, though officials maintain that no data was altered or deleted.
U.S. officials maintain that the systems targeted were not involved in actual vote counting and that no evidence exists suggesting votes were changed. Voting machines, which are typically not connected to the internet and are stored in secure facilities, are much more difficult to breach, experts say.
Still, Russia’s interference has spurred widespread fears that Moscow or other foreign adversaries could look to meddle in future votes. For its part, Congress has sent $380 million to states to help them replace outdated voting technology with more secure systems.
Still, Quigley described the funds as inadequate in the interview with CBS. He, like other lawmakers and officials, pointed to states that still use paperless voting systems as those most at risk. Paperless voting machines do not provide a paper ballot backup that can be audited in the event a digital result is called into question.
Quigley also faulted both the Obama and Trump administrations for an inadequate response to Russian interference.
“I've come to the conclusion that what the Russians did was, as a wise man said, the political equivalent of 9/11,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “And our response to that is probably more important and will have more profound impacts on our country going forward.”
Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE has been investigating Russian interference in the election for more than a year, including looking into whether there was collusion between President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE’s campaign and Moscow. The president has consistently waged against the investigation, describing it as a “witch hunt” and denying any allegation of collusion.
Congressional committees have also been investigating Russian interference. The House Intelligence Committee, on which Quigley sits, spearheaded an investigation that devolved into partisan infighting, which culminated in the majority and minority members issuing separate reports on their conclusions.