Ex-White House staffer: Midterms are target

Former White House National Security Council staffer Graham Brookie speaks to Kate Bolduan about the possible threat of Russia influence in the upcoming midterm elections.

Posted: Aug 2, 2018 7:39 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2018 7:39 AM

Two leading senators are asserting that President Donald Trump has not focused on the clear threat the Kremlin poses in the 2018 elections, with one Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee contending that Russian hackers may have already targeted most -- if not all -- sitting US senators.

Ratcheting up the push for a more robust US response to Russian interference in the midterms and 2020 elections, Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are now slated to get a committee vote this month on a bipartisan bill aimed at shoring up the nation's election system. But the two senators said their plan has run into hurdles for months -- and say the Russian threat is real headed into the midterms.

In a joint interview as the primary season wraps up and with the November midterms less than 100 days away, the senators told CNN Wednesday that there is far more that has to be done -- from the White House on down to the states.

"The intelligence community has been very active on this, the Department of Homeland Security has been active on this," Lankford said. "While the President has been inconsistent in his tweets, and some of the messaging that he's put on it, he's the only one in the government that hasn't been paying attention to this."

Klobuchar added: "There were clearly delays based on things the President was saying that weren't really directing their people to coordinate, they've admitted that under oath. But from the very beginning, Director (Dan) Coats made it clear that Russia has been emboldened and they're getting bolder."

The senators revealed that one of the Russian targets appear to be themselves. Asked about a Daily Beast report that Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill has been targeted by Russian hackers, Lankford acknowledged that virtually every senator has faced a similar threat, calling it a "pretty regular thing around here."

"I would be shocked if there's a senator that hasn't been targeted, quite frankly," said Lankford, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Because this a common issue for people trying to get in to get access to your information. And if they can get access into one office, they can get access into multiple offices. So they can look for any spot they were able to get into."

The comments come as Congress is moving to toughen the US response to Russian aggression in the elections amid growing bipartisan angst that the administration is not moving swiftly enough. After Trump's handling of last month's summit with Vladimir Putin was widely panned, Senate Republicans have called for more sanctions on the Kremlin -- and more lawmakers are calling for new legislation to force the federal government and states to take more significant action.

Asked about the Helsinki summit, Lankford said that Trump should have told Putin that Russian interference is "not acceptable anywhere in the world. You do that to your own people as you've done for years and year and years, but you can't do it to other people. I think that would've been a much clearer, much bolder statement to be able to confront him. The President chose not to do that for whatever reason, but I do think that's a missed opportunity."

The Secure Elections Act, a bill proposed by Klobuchar and Lankford and cosponsored by 10 other senators, s aimed at bolstering the state and federal response to cybersecurity and other threats posed in the elections, including by giving state officials security clearances to evaluate classified intelligence and respond to potential threats while also requiring auditing procedures after the elections to ensure the results can be verified. With 14 states lacking paper ballots, Klobuchar said they're encouraging states to "have some kind of a back-up paper ballot system" in order to get money to bolster their election systems.

The bill is slated to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee later this month. Its prospects on the Senate floor, and in the House, are uncertain.

After Congress set aside $380 million for states on election security earlier this year, critics on Capitol Hill have faulted the administration and states for not doing more. And Lanford and Klobuchar said they've encountered their own resistance from state officials.

"We've had our own frustration of working through the legislation," Lankford said. "Quite frankly, a lot of what we've had to work through over months and months is working with the states to make sure the states are in a place that they wanna be able to sign off on this bill."

Whether the bill would even deter the persistent Russian threat is still an open question.

Asked if Russians could tip the midterm elections this year, Klobuchar said: "Certainly, if they somehow got into the equipment and made changes to the vote counts. That would be called tilting the election."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
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