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National Security & Defense

Senate Intel Committee Confirms Russians Hacked Election Systems in 50 States, Didn’t Change Vote Totals

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, in Moscow, Russia, June 13, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters)

The Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed Friday that Russian hackers targeted election systems in all 50 states in advance of the 2016 elections, but did not attempt to alter any vote totals.

The panel released the first section of a five-volume report on Thursday afternoon that details “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” carried out by Russian hackers. While it was previously known that hackers targeted a handful of states in the run up to the election, the report revealed that the effort was more widespread that previously understood.

The committee noted that “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” but said there is no evidence that any voting totals were changed. As of March, 67 percent of registered Democrats believed that Russian hackers had changed voting totals in the 2016 election, according to a YouGov poll.

The report, which was heavily redacted by the nation’s intelligence agencies, was released just 24 hours after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before a pair of House committees about his investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. It also came the same the day that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Democrats from bringing to the floor election-security legislation that they argue will prevent a repeat of the 2016 breach.

McConnell, in his remarks Thursday, cast the legislation as an unnecessary intrusion by the federal government into a process historically controlled by the states.

“It’s just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia and who continue to ignore this administration’s progress at correcting the Obama administration’s failure on this subject,” McConnell said of the Democratic legislation.

Democratic leadership has argued that their Republican colleagues oppose the legislation because it casts a shadow over Trump’s victory. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment during his Thursday response to McConnell, suggesting any opposition to the bill placed party over country.

“This is not a Democratic issue, a Republican issue,” Schumer said. “This is not a liberal issue, a moderate issue, a conservative issue. This is an issue of patriotism, of national security, of protecting the very integrity of American democracy, something so many of our forbears died for.”

“And what do we hear from the Republican side?” he added. “Nothing.”

Congress passed legislation last year that provides $380 million in grants for states to improve their election systems’ security protocols, a figure Democrats maintain is completely incommensurate with the scale of the systems’ vulnerabilities.

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