Hillicon Valley: Democrats seize on whistleblower complaint to push for election security | Google taps GOP Senate aide to lead lobbying | Warren calls for congressional tech office

Hillicon Valley: Democrats seize on whistleblower complaint to push for election security | Google taps GOP Senate aide to lead lobbying | Warren calls for congressional tech office
© Greg Nash

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YOU'VE BEEN WARNED: Democrats renewed their push for election security legislation after a stark warning from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the release of a whistleblower complaint about President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE's call with Ukraine's leader.

Maguire on Thursday warned that the "greatest challenge" the U.S. is facing is "maintaining the integrity of our election system" and said "there are foreign powers that are trying to get us to question the validity of whether or not our elections are valid."

The intelligence official made the comment during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday about a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump tried to persuade Ukraine to mount a corruption investigation against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Graham: 'Stupid' for Trump to ask China to investigate Biden Romney: Republicans don't criticize Trump because they fear it will help Warren MORE, the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Democrats also highlighted a section in the whistleblower complaint that Trump's actions could pose "risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government's efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections."

The two events have bolstered the need for election security legislation, these Democrats argued, not long after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE's report highlighted Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections.

Democrats sound the alarm: "The President again, just [as] he did in 2016, sought out assistance from a foreign power to help in his reelection," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonUS ban on China tech giant faces uncertainty a month out Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Hillicon Valley: Democrats seize on whistleblower complaint to push for election security | Google taps GOP Senate aide to lead lobbying | Warren calls for congressional tech office MORE (D-Miss.) said in a statement on Thursday. "This is election interference, plain and simple. The President has continually and persistently undermined the integrity of our elections and our democracy."

"I agree with the Acting DNI [director of national intelligence] – the top threat to our national security is the security of our elections," he added. "It is high time for Republicans in Congress to finally realize this and join us in ensuring our elections are wholly and properly secured. We need a comprehensive, whole-of-government effort."

Democrats also used the two events to sharpen their attacks against the president. 

"When a foreign country tries to interfere, that to me is clearly an act against the best interests of the United States, and we certainly do not expect the president to be complicit in that effort," Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' Trump judicial nominee delayed amid GOP pushback MORE (Ill.), the second highest-ranking Senate Democrat, told reporters on Thursday.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Meet the dog and 'sea turtle' who launched campaigns for office Senators demand briefing on Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria MORE (D-Del.), one of the sponsors behind the amendment that added $250 million in election security funds, told The Hill on Thursday that he "would hope" that Maguire's comments spur more bipartisan action on election security.

"We should be concerned not just about Russia, but about other state and nonstate actors, because the weakness of the response of our government overall to this threat has been unfortunately broadly covered in the press," Coons said. "It is long past time for us to do more to secure our elections. I hope that Acting DNI Maguire's testimony today will spur further action, but it is very late in the game."

Report bolsters their case: Election security concerns were further underlined by the release on Thursday of the annual report that arose from DEFCON Voting Village, a major hacking conference that allows for hackers to test voting equipment for vulnerabilities.

The white-hat hackers tested various voting machines in use throughout the nation and found cyber vulnerabilities that would allow foreign actors or other individuals to interfere in election results.

Read more on the election security push here.



ROUND AND ROUND: Google has tapped Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Senate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration MORE's (R-Ohio) top aide to lead its U.S. lobbying efforts as the company faces mounting investigations into its market power.

Mark Isakowitz, who has served as Portman's chief of staff for the past five years, will be Google's vice president in charge of government affairs and public policy.

"Mark brings more than 30 years of experience in Washington, serious policy knowledge, and an impressive record of bridging divides and achieving results," Karan Bhatia, who leads Google's global government affairs office, said in a statement Friday. "He will help Google work with lawmakers to support policies that encourage growth and responsible innovation."

Isakowitz will replace former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.), who announced last year that she would be stepping down from the top lobbying role in D.C.

Last year, Portman's office was the driving force behind the sex trafficking bill sometimes referred to as FOSTA-SESTA that panicked many in Silicon Valley. The measure, which was passed and signed into law in 2018, carves out exceptions to internet platforms' legal liability protections over content posted by their users.

Read more here.



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WARREN PUSHES FOR TECH OFFICE: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Warren, Yang fight over automation divides experts Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE (D-Mass.) on Friday proposed reinstating a congressional office dedicated to improving tech expertise in order to beat back the growing power of technology companies' lobbying efforts.

In a plan posted to her website, Warren -- one of the top Democratic presidential contenders -- said she wants to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was set up in the 1970s and dissolved in 1995 under former House Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.). 

Congress stood up the OTA to deliver technology expertise to staffers and lawmakers, who often struggle to keep abreast with the latest developments in an advanced and complex industry. 

Since the OTA was defunded, the country's top tech companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, have invested millions in lobbying efforts, filling the knowledge gap, Warren said, with the message, "Trust us because we understand it and you don't."

"Members of Congress should have the resources they need to make decisions without relying on corporate lobbyists," Warren said.

There's been a recent spike in interest around the OTA, with lawmakers in the House and Senate proposing legislation that would reinstate the tech office to help lawmakers navigate the pressing regulatory concerns around Big Tech. 

A draft fiscal 2020 legislative branch funding bill would dedicate $6 million in initial funding to the OTA, though Senate appropriators stripped that funding on Thursday.

Warren is arguing the OTA could help lawmakers avoid another public embarrassment like last year's hearings with Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Combatting fake news on social media will take a village On The Money: Supreme Court takes up challenge to CFPB | Warren's surge brings scrutiny to wealth tax | Senators eye curbs on Trump emergency powers MORE, when multiple lawmakers drew criticism for questions that revealed a lack of understanding around how social media platforms work.  

"When Congress decides whether it should break up big tech companies, our representatives shouldn't have to rely on Google's policy team to understand the effects of technology consolidation," she wrote.

Her plan would also increase salaries for congressional staffers and funding for multiple congressional support agencies. 

Read more here.



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