Much can be made from former Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson's House Intelligence Committee testimony on alleged Russian meddling as well as Illinois election officials' testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the same subject.
As it relates to Johnson's testimony, we are left with at least two very important questions:
- Why was DHS not given access to the DNC servers after the hack into John Podesta and Hillary Clinton's emails? If in fact this was a case of Russian interference, which would be a felony.
- If it was such a concern, why didn't the White House or election officials do more to alert the electorate between October 7 and Election Day that such a hack occurred?
It's important to have a little context with the first question. After the server hack, instead of summoning the FBI or DHS, the agencies who routinely handle safeguarding election measures in the U.S., DNC officials turned to a private cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, to mitigate and assess the damage. CrowdStrike is where the "Russia" hacking theory began. It was the subject in a report low on facts, and debunked by other think tanks that Fancy Bear (a group affiliated with the Russian military) carried out the malware attack on the DNC.
In the House hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy was concerned that the DNC failed to grant access to DHS or FBI officials in what is a criminal investigation.
Gowdy noted, “The DNC was the victim of a crime. I’m trying to understand why the victim of a crime would not turn over evidence to you and Jim Comey."
Former DHS Chief Jeh Johnson replied, “I’m not going to argue with you, that was a leading question and I’ll agree to be led. I recall very clearly that I was not pleased that we were not in there helping them patch this vulnerability.”
So, what was the DNC trying to hide? Why the power of secrecy?
To the second question of why DHS officials didn't alert the American people of this crime, Johnson noted, “There was an ongoing election, and many would criticize us for perhaps taking sides in the election, so that had to be carefully considered.” Here was the statement DHS sent on October 7:
"The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process."
If this DHS confidence is based on evidence that’s being withheld from the public, that’s one thing, as they seem to have cornered the market on secrecy. But if our intelligence community is demanding the American electorate believe them, and accept the constant and consistent claims they've made before hearing after hearing that our election was hacked by the Russians, we need them to lay bare the facts, as there are none in the statement above.
As for the Senate testimony, lawmakers focused on state election security systems and the risk of using electronic voting machines. The Illinois security breach was scrutinized.
Steve Sandross is the top election official for the state of Illinois. In an article published by the Chicago Tribune on August 29, 2016, an attorney said the personal information of some 200,000 Illinois voters was compromised. Sandross testified that neither DHS nor FBI officials notified the state on a) noticing the electorate was hacked, and b) who was responsible. Sandross said, "The DHS and FBI didn't notify the election commission as to the extent of the hack."
After the Illinois cyberattack and another attempt in Arizona, the FBI did issue a "flash alert," warning of malicious attempts to obtain access to states' voter registration information.
The FBI blamed Russia.
Still, at no time have we seen a shred of hard evidence connecting Russia to Arizona, Illinois, or the DNC.
We did see Bernie Sanders' attorney compare Arizona 2017 to Florida's hanging chad debacle in 2000.
We did see the concerning timing of the Arizona piece as it hit right around the time the DNC was stepping up efforts in Arizona.
And we did see the DNC voter database, Hillary, and Podesta emails appear on the dark web almost at the same time Bernie Sanders was accused of stealing data from the Hillary campaign.
We know that the American people are becoming increasingly exhausted with Russia, the DNC, and the FBI conversation.
Pushing the conspiracy theory of Russia, is at least in one legislators mind, costing Democrats elections and injuring any shred of trust the electorate has left in its government.
If there is proof of a foreign hack, then show us.
Otherwise, let's get back to the most important role of government: working to better the lives of its people.