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Senator says Russia accessed FL voting systems

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who's up for re-election this year in a state President Donald Trump won in 2016, said Russians have "penetrated" some of his state's voter registration systems ahead of the 2018 midterms. CNN's Brian Todd reports.

Posted: Aug 12, 2018 4:13 PM
Updated: Aug 12, 2018 4:13 PM

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who's up for re-election this year in a state President Donald Trump won in 2016, said Russians have "penetrated" some of his state's voter registration systems ahead of the 2018 midterms.

"They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about," he told the Tampa Bay Times before a campaign event in Tampa.

He added, "We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the intelligence committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records."

The newspaper reported he said something similar in Tallahassee on Tuesday, but declined to elaborate.

"That's classified," Nelson said Tuesday.

Nelson, who is running to keep his seat against Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's office declined to comment to CNN on the comments made by Nelson.

The Florida Department of State pushed back on the claims by Nelson that Russian operatives have "penetrated" Florida voting systems.

"The Florida Department of State has received zero information from Sen. Nelson or his staff that support his claims," Florida Department of State spokesperson Sarah Revell told CNN. "Additionally, the department has received no information from the US Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that corroborates Senator Nelson's statement and we have no evidence to support these claims. If Sen. Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida."

Revell also stressed that "state and local election officials have taken significant steps to ensure the security and integrity of our elections."

The Department of Homeland security responded to Nelson's comments by saying their department and officials with Florida "have partnered on a number of initiatives to secure their election systems" but said DHS continues "to assess Russian actors were not able to access vote tallying systems."

"While we are aware of Senator Nelson's recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure," Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Sendek said in a statement. "That said, we don't need to wait for a specific threat to be ready."

Nelson's comments come after the two Florida senators sent a letter to 67 county election supervisors about potential threats ahead of the 2018 midterms, asking them to take advantage of the resources provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

"We encourage you in the strongest terms to take advantage of those resources, and to let us know about your experience with DHS and FBI," Nelson and Rubio both wrote in the letter.

A spokeswoman for Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr declined to comment.

The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, told CNN in a statement: "Russian activities continue to pose a threat to the security of our elections, as Sens. Nelson and Rubio rightly pointed out in their letter. As Vice Chair of (the committee), I hope all state and local elections officials, including Florida's, will take this issue seriously."

The statements from Nelson come amid growing attention toward whether the Russians are trying to influence the midterms, such as intelligence officials said they did during the 2016 election.

In July, CNN reported that government officials working to counter election interference from Russia have been operating with no strategy from the top, including from Trump's fractured National Security Council, leaving each agency to fend for itself without White House support or direction, according to lawmakers and national security officials who spoke with CNN.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told reporters at a White House briefing earlier this month that Russia is continuing to pursue its efforts to interfere in the US political system and said President Donald Trump has directed them to make countering election interference a top priority.

"We continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States," he said. "The President has specifically directed us to make the matter of election meddling and securing our election process a top priority."

This story has been updated with additional developments.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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