ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Rick Scott said Sunday that he was never told by Homeland Security officials in 2016 when he was Florida’s governor that Russian hackers had gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the presidential election.
Scott said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was never contacted by the Department of Homeland Security in 2016 about the infiltration. The Republican said he learned about most of the details this year.
Current Gov. Ron DeSantis said in May that the hackers didn’t manipulate any data and the election results weren’t compromised. DeSantis and other officials briefed on the matter wouldn’t say which counties.
“And the bottom line is, they got into two counties. But they had no impact,” Scott said. “They didn’t change any voter registration, voter rolls. They didn’t change any votes.”
Scott made his comments when asked about a Senate report released last week that said all states were targeted to varying degrees by Russian hackers. Scott said he hasn’t yet read the report, though he was briefed on it.
“You haven’t read this report yet?” said Chuck Todd, the show’s host. “It got released on Thursday. I’m sorry.”
Last August, then-Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who Scott was running against, said that Russians had penetrated the systems of certain Florida counties and had “free rein to move about” before last year’s midterm election. Scott, who defeated Nelson in the November election, criticized Nelson’s allegations, saying they were sensational.
The Senate report outlined efforts by Russian hackers to get into systems in Illinois and around two dozen unnamed states. It detailed attempts in Illinois and a state only referred to as “State 2” but widely believed to be Florida, according to news reports .
The FBI believed at one point in 2018 that four county systems in “State 2” may have been infiltrated or been the target of suspicious activity, according to the Senate report.
The Senate report also said the FBI had opened an investigation into suspicious activity in “State 2” as early as August 2016 and had conducted outreach to county elections officials.
In December 2017, the secretary of state and elections director in “State 2” told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that there never was an attack on the state’s systems.
The state officials didn’t want to share its “cybersecurity posture” with the committee, but the report says the Department of Homeland Security was “complimentary” of the steps the state had taken to secure its voting systems by August 2018.
On Sunday, Scott maintained there was no infiltration of Florida election systems in the 2018 election. But Scott warned that Russia, Iran, and China were working to impact the 2020 elections.
“Everybody needs to work together to make sure this doesn’t happen,” Scott said. “But all of us have to understand the Russians are here and other countries. They’re going to try to influence our elections.”
By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press