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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: 501652

Reported Deaths: 10024
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34353540
DeSoto32162408
Hinds31977631
Jackson24508383
Rankin22015390
Lee15596235
Madison14597280
Jones13867243
Forrest13461252
Lauderdale11998317
Lowndes11065188
Lamar10522136
Pearl River9547237
Lafayette8557140
Hancock7740127
Washington7443160
Oktibbeha7147133
Monroe6787178
Warren6706176
Pontotoc6677104
Neshoba6642206
Panola6542131
Marshall6476135
Bolivar6323150
Union605794
Pike5824152
Alcorn5676102
Lincoln5439135
George497479
Scott473098
Tippah470381
Prentiss469182
Leflore4663144
Itawamba4640105
Adams4592119
Tate4592111
Copiah448792
Simpson4448116
Yazoo444887
Wayne440072
Covington429094
Sunflower4240105
Marion4232108
Coahoma4168107
Leake408688
Newton381779
Grenada3711108
Stone360664
Tishomingo360092
Attala331789
Jasper330165
Winston314691
Clay308977
Chickasaw301067
Clarke292594
Calhoun279447
Holmes267987
Smith264150
Yalobusha234547
Tallahatchie228251
Greene219449
Walthall218764
Lawrence213140
Perry205956
Amite205256
Webster203046
Noxubee186840
Montgomery179657
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169338
Tunica160039
Benton149239
Kemper141941
Choctaw133326
Claiborne132837
Humphreys129638
Franklin120328
Quitman106528
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94734
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 820312

Reported Deaths: 15407
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1148731924
Mobile726221339
Madison52362697
Shelby37640350
Baldwin37266552
Tuscaloosa35120612
Montgomery34123740
Lee23540246
Calhoun22236488
Morgan20958378
Etowah19838500
Marshall18381304
Houston17394412
St. Clair16078339
Cullman15468293
Limestone15354199
Elmore15271286
Lauderdale14323295
Talladega13851283
DeKalb12664261
Walker11221370
Blount10207176
Autauga10048148
Jackson9877184
Coffee9211191
Dale8904185
Colbert8877201
Tallapoosa7093198
Escambia6778134
Covington6715183
Chilton6648162
Russell637559
Franklin5969105
Chambers5612142
Marion5010127
Dallas4979200
Pike4796106
Clarke475884
Geneva4575127
Winston4522103
Lawrence4327117
Bibb425386
Barbour357876
Marengo338390
Monroe331664
Randolph329864
Butler326796
Pickens316584
Henry312866
Hale311688
Cherokee302960
Fayette294180
Washington251651
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245375
Clay243368
Macon234863
Lamar224847
Conecuh186353
Coosa180340
Lowndes175464
Wilcox168939
Bullock151744
Perry138940
Sumter133238
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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