Former DHS head Jeh Johnson to testify Russia ‘did not alter ballots’ in 2016 election
Josh SiegelJun 20, 2017, 9:09 PM
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that the Russian government did not “alter ballots, ballot counts, or reporting of election results,” during its 2016 hacking campaign.
“To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results,” Johnson will say, according to his planned testimony published online Tuesday night. “I am not in a position to know whether the successful Russian government-directed hacks of the DNC and elsewhere did in fact alter public opinion and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election.”
In his testimony, Johnson, President Obama’s homeland security secretary from 2013 to the end of his second term, confirms the Russians launched cyberattacks aimed at the 2016 presidential campaign “for the purpose of influencing our election,” a finding that is shared by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our Nation for the purpose of influencing our election – plain and simple,” Johnson will say.
Johnson’s testimony to the House intelligence panel will supplement its ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Its investigation is one of several congressional and federal probes looking into the matter.
Johnson will also express concerns about the worsening threat of cyberattacks, and describes his efforts to help states protect their elections systems from intrusion.
“Cyberattacks of all manner and from multiple sources are going to get worse before they get better,” Johnson says. “In this realm and at this moment, those on offense have the upper hand.”
On August 15, Johnson says he held a conference call with secretaries of state and other election officials of every state in the country, warning them to ensure the security and resilience of their election infrastructure, and offering DHS’s assistance to do that.
He said most state officials were resistant to his help.
“To my disappointment, the reaction to a critical infrastructure designation, at least from those who spoke up, ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson says. “Those who expressed negative views stated that running elections in this country was the sovereign and exclusive responsibility of the states, and they did not want federal intrusion, a federal takeover, or federal regulation of that process.”
Johnson had wanted to declare election infrastructure to be “critical infrastructure,” making it eligible for more protection, but he will say he tabled the idea after states pushed back on his offer to help.
In October, Johnson and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a joint statement formally accusing the Russian government of directing cyber “thefts and disclosures [that] are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
In this statement, the officials warned that “[s]ome states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company.”
Johnson will say “we were not then in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian government and once again encouraged state election officials to seek DHS’s assistance.”
After numerous warnings, by Election Day on Nov. 8, Johnson will say almost every state contacted DHS for help, and 33 states and 36 cities and counties used DHS tools “to scan for potential vulnerabilities in their election systems and/or sought advice from us.”
On Jan. 6, Johnson will say he issued a final statement determining that election infrastructure should be considered “critical.”
Johnson’s successor, John Kelly, has reaffirmed that designation.