WASHINGTON (CN) — Appearing for the first time before Congress since President Donald Trump fired him, the nation’s former cybersecurity chief told senators during a contentious hearing Wednesday that claims of fraud in the 2020 election are baseless and undermine democracy.
“I could not be more proud of my team at the [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] for the work they did, not just protecting the 2020 election, but in getting through the last nine months,” Chris Krebs told members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee during a hearing reviewing the integrity of the November election.
He noted his former agency, known as CISA, worked with intelligence officials and those in the Defense Department in “a unified government effort.”
“Everybody got it. There were no turf wars, there was no parochialism. Everybody was on the same page. We were defending democracy,” he said.
Trump fired Krebs in November, mere days after CISA announced publicly there was no evidence of voter fraud in this year’s general election. The Department of Justice also reached the same conclusion.
President-elect Joe Biden’s victory was certified on Monday by the Electoral College after weeks of seemingly endless challenges by the Trump campaign that were defeated in court. The president’s legal team has lost no less than 60 lawsuits since early November and has seen the U.S. Supreme Court succinctly reject its bids to overturn state election results or invalidate the ballots of millions of Americans.
While there were attempts by Russia to gain access to election systems this fall, all nefarious activities were quickly reported and squashed, according to CISA.
The strategy employed by members of the intelligence community and the Pentagon to secure the election after the hard lessons learned from Russian interference in 2016 was hugely effective, Krebs testified under oath on Wednesday.
“In no case did the Russians access any voting machines, tabulators, or equipment related to vote casting, counting or certification,” he said.
Disinformation has continued to circulate from the White House to the halls of Congress to social media since Biden won, despite audits and recounts in states across the nation affirming the former vice president’s clear victory over Trump.
Committee Chair Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who is set to retire from the committee next year, was adamant during Wednesday’s hearing that most Americans were not confident in the election results for a variety of factors. He blamed this on news coverage of what he called the "Russian collusion hoax" during Trump’s presidency as well as the "ongoing suppression and censorship of conservative perspective by biased media and social media.”
A survey conducted last week by Morning Consult/Politico found disparate opinions on the election results along party lines, with about 83% of Democrats trusting the outcome compared to just 33% of Republicans.
Several other witnesses besides Krebs were invited to testify before the committee Wednesday. Trump campaign attorney Jesse Binnall was given ample time by Johnson to testify on flimsy legal theories that have been shot down in court, including his claim that a wave of irregularities in Nevada was to blame for Trump’s loss there.
The Nevada Supreme Court rejected the campaign’s challenge to the state’s results last week based on a lack of evidence. Biden won Nevada by over 33,000 votes.
Trump tweeted as the hearing unfolded Wednesday, writing in one post that “Nevada must be flipped based on testimony!” Another tweet took aim at Krebs, claiming the former cybersecurity chief “was totally excoriated and proven wrong” at the hearing. Both posts were flagged by Twitter as containing disputed claims about election fraud.
Before Trump fired Krebs, the CISA director launched a “rumor control” webpage to address baseless claims about the election. He testified that claims of “malicious algorithms” that manipulated results and other accusations largely emanating from the president and his supporters have sown confusion about how voting machines function.
In Michigan, Krebs noted, a forensic audit was recently completed on voting machines in Antrim County by the partisan organization Allied Security Operations Group. The group baselessly claimed Dominion Voting Systems intentionally designed its machines used in the state to create errors and its debunked report said 68% of votes cast had errors.
“Those are claims that are repeated on social media by the president. I wanted to understand so I looked at it and it was not that 68% of votes were in error. It was that the election management system logs had records of the logs themselves that had some sort of alert rate,” Krebs said. “That is being used to spin that the machine is not trustworthy.”
The Allied Security report was also denounced by Michigan election officials earlier this week.
Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who serves as vice chair of the committee, was visibly frustrated during the hearing that even at this late stage, American taxpayers, lawmakers and executive branch officials are still trying to invalidate the clear results of the presidential election.
“The president is continuing to undermine the will of the people, disenfranchise voters and sow the seeds of distrust and discontent to further their partisan desire for power. Whether intended or not, this hearing gives a platform to conspiracy theories and lies, and it is a destructive exercise that has no place in the Senate,” Peters said.
Krebs, like many other election officials this year, has received death threats and harassment since leaving his post and insisting that Trump lost his reelection bid fair and square.
Earlier this month, Trump campaign attorney Joseph diGenova called for Krebs to be shot during an appearance on the Newsmax program “The Howie Carr Show,” prompting Krebs to sue the Trump campaign and diGenova in Maryland state court last week for defamation.
Krebs claims his own son has been damaged by the smear campaign launched against him since leaving his post.
“Daddy’s going to get executed?” his young son asked him, according to the complaint.
Krebs told lawmakers Wednesday that the nation is “past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election.”
“Continued assaults on the outcome of this election are ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections,” he said. “Going forward, it will be that much harder. The trick about elections is you’re not trying to convince the winner they won, but the loser that they have lost.”
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