Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson witnessed Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee last year turned away his agency's offer to help protect its network despite being advised about a hacker.
He also confirmed that while Russia, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, orchestrated cyberattacks on the United States to influence the 2016 presidential election, Moscow was unable to actually alter ballots.
To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter votes, ballot counts or reporting of results of the election, Johnson said during his opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee.
Johnson, who served in the Obama administration from December 2013 to January 2017, said his concerns about a cyberattack against the U.S. election systems intensified last summer. He added that he and his equivalents sounded the alarm but that the press and voters were focused on a lot of other things during the election season.
In August, he said he floated the idea of designating the countrys election infrastructure as critical which would allow election officials to get cybersecurity assist. Johnson testified that multiple secretaries of states turned down his offer and viewed any aid as the federal government trying to Big brother the election.
Johnson also confirmed he went to the Democratic National Committee about a hacker in their system but was told that the DNC did not feel it needed DHS assistance.
Sometime in 2016, I became aware of a hack into systems of the Democratic National Committee, Johnson said. I pressed my staff to know whether DHS was sufficiently proactive, and on the scene helping the DNC identify the invaders and patch vulnerabilities. The answer, to the best of my recollection, was not reassure: the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with one another months before about the intrusion, and the DNC did not feel it needed DHSs assistance at that time.
The FBI reportedly faced a similar rejection.
Emails from then-DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz ultimately were leaked ahead of the partys national convention in Philadelphia. Those emails seemed to show party officers conspiring to sabotage Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign. The incident led to Schultzs resignation.
During his testimony, Johnson also described steps “hes taken” once he learned about the Russian-backed hacking of the Democratic National Committee, his fears about an attack on the election itself as well as his rationale for designating U.S. election systems, including polling place and voter registration databases, as critical infrastructure in early January before President Trumps inauguration.
Johnson testified that 33 states and 36 cities and districts used his departments tools to scan for potential vulnerabilities. Johnson said he personally reached out to Gary Pruitt, CEO of The Associated Press, which counts votes.
Prior to Election Day, I personally reviewed with the CEO of The Associated Press its long-standing election-day reporting process, including the redundancies and safeguards in its systems, Johnson told.
On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate Intelligence Committee heard Wednesday from federal officials as well as country election representatives about Russia cyber-meddling.
Connie Lawson, president-elect of the National Association of Secretaries of Nation, pointedly suggested Johnsons DHS held back information last year. She testified it was gravely concerning that state election officials most recently learned about the threat to voting systems, after DHS repeatedly told them no credible threat existed last fall.
Secretaries of state took part in three calls where … Johnson was asked whether any documented threats existed, Lawson told, adding the calls took place Aug. 15, Sept. 8, and Oct. 12. Each hour, Secretary Johnson was immediately asked about specific, believable threats and each time he confirmed that none existed.
She also expressed concerns about DHS designating election systems as critical infrastructure without clear parameters.
In the same hearing, Acting Director of Undersecretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS Jeanette Manfra told lawmakers that 21 countries were targeted in the presidential election.
But no elections were changed, Manfra said.
Ranking Member Mark Warner, D-Va ., pressed Manfra on whether election officials were aware of the interference. All of the organizations of the system owneds are aware of the targeting, Manfra answered.
Fox News' Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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