Trump disputes Russian interference in 2016 election

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is sworn in to the House Intelligence Committee task force on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday
Trump disputes Russian interference in 2016 election
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23 June, 2017

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to bash former President Barack Obama for not doing more to stop Russia's meddling with the election, because any alleged interference would have occurred during his administration.

Former Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson said he was concerned that the Democratic National Committee refused help after being hacked during the 2016 election, at a hearing on June 21 at the Capitol.

"In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of [President] Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the goal of influencing our election - plain and simple", Johnson said.

"One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way".

The good news, say election officials, is that the nation's decentralized system makes it extremely hard to penetrate. "The DNC then provided DHS with detailed information about the intrusion", spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

The FBI found evidence by August that Russian-backed hackers had targeted electoral systems in 21 states, officials confirmed Wednesday, but the Obama administration did not publicly disclose the meddling until October 7.

Testifying before the Congressional committee, an official from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed the number of states targeted by hackers seeking to affect the electoral results.

In his testimony, Johnson said the DNC shrugged off the help.

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But though the government disclosed that 21 states were potentially impacted by the targeting, lawmakers were left frustrated that the public still doesn't have a full picture of what exactly the Russians did during the election and that it's not fully clear what the U.S. will do to protect itself going forward.

While the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign has been known for months, it was the first time US officials have said how many states' electoral systems were targeted. It wasn't until after the election, that Johnson formally made the designation.

Mark Warner, vice chairman of the intelligence committee, questioned Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Mike Haas about whether Wisconsin was one of the states that had been hacked.

Putin has rejected Russian government involvement in the US cyberattacks.

"Not beyond what has been out there, open-source, and not beyond anything that I'm sure this committee has already seen and heard before directly from the intelligence community", Johnson said. The Department of Homeland Security, with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had offered to identify the intruders and fix the vulnerabilities in the DNC servers.

Former Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson says it would have been "unforgiveable" not to alert the American public ahead of the 2016 election that the Russians hacked Democratic email systems. "It's at the discretion of each state what they wish to disclose".

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat, said he and other lawmakers were given a classified briefing last summer about Russia's campaign hacks.

A DHS official told the committee that when a state or local entity is the victim of a "cyber incident", "we believe very strongly in protecting the information around that victim".


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