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.

Confirmed Cases: 112123

Reported Deaths: 3223
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7796173
DeSoto670178
Harrison484483
Jackson435081
Rankin383786
Madison373993
Lee344979
Forrest296377
Jones283782
Washington252197
Lafayette242642
Lauderdale2376131
Lamar217138
Bolivar198377
Oktibbeha195854
Neshoba1814111
Lowndes174962
Panola166337
Leflore160787
Sunflower157649
Warren152755
Monroe145972
Pontotoc143819
Pike137256
Lincoln135555
Copiah135036
Marshall134826
Scott123829
Coahoma123436
Grenada120038
Yazoo119333
Simpson118649
Union115225
Holmes113560
Leake113340
Tate113239
Itawamba110424
Pearl River108958
Adams104343
Prentiss102619
Wayne98721
Alcorn96012
George93917
Marion92942
Covington92525
Tippah85921
Newton84427
Chickasaw82625
Winston82221
Tallahatchie81825
Tishomingo79341
Hancock78127
Attala77626
Clarke72349
Clay67621
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61412
Noxubee59617
Smith58316
Claiborne53216
Montgomery52923
Tunica52217
Lawrence49914
Yalobusha49314
Perry48122
Carroll46312
Greene45518
Stone45014
Amite41713
Quitman4146
Humphreys41216
Jefferson Davis39811
Webster36613
Wilkinson33020
Kemper32015
Benton3154
Sharkey27814
Jefferson27010
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1063
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22563372
Mobile14335314
Tuscaloosa10023133
Montgomery9759196
Madison904893
Shelby709960
Lee644966
Baldwin640569
Marshall428248
Calhoun412759
Etowah405749
Morgan396833
Houston364632
DeKalb319628
Elmore310752
St. Clair282142
Limestone270828
Walker268892
Talladega258435
Cullman227623
Lauderdale208740
Autauga201029
Jackson200915
Franklin199731
Colbert192228
Russell19053
Dallas185627
Blount184824
Chilton181731
Escambia171328
Coffee16669
Covington166029
Dale163451
Pike130512
Chambers130143
Tallapoosa128686
Clarke127117
Marion104729
Butler99840
Barbour9889
Marengo97221
Winston90413
Geneva8417
Pickens80517
Lawrence80031
Randolph79814
Bibb79114
Hale74529
Cherokee72214
Clay71912
Lowndes70127
Henry6376
Bullock63517
Monroe6319
Washington62212
Crenshaw59330
Perry5806
Wilcox55912
Conecuh55713
Fayette55312
Cleburne5287
Macon52820
Sumter46721
Lamar4565
Choctaw38712
Greene33916
Coosa1973
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