Lawmakers briefed on election security by top administration officials acknowledged ongoing threats to the 2020 presidential race Thursday.
Held behind closed doors by the heads of the intelligence community and FBI, among others, Wednesday’s briefings gave members of the House and Senate a glimpse at the federal government’s efforts to secure the U.S. electoral process on the heels of Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential race.
Democratic and Republican attendees recognized threats to the race afterward, albeit to varying degrees.
“If there was one take away from this meeting, it’s that Russia will once again try to interfere in our elections,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, Michigan Democrat, said on Twitter. “These are threats we all need to take seriously.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a comparatively more optimistic outlook, meanwhile.
“Threats remain, but yesterday’s briefing was an instructive counterpoint to the doom and gloom hyperbole we often see in the media,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican said on the House floor Thursday morning.
“And as we look to 2020, it is encouraging to learn how seriously the administration is taking the threat and proactively working to counter it, because we know the threat is not going anywhere,” said Mr. McConnell “Foreign adversaries are going to keep at it. So I’m glad the administration is so focused on staying strong and remaining vigilant.”
Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, Daniel R. Coats, and FBI Director Christoper A. Wray were among a handful of administration officials who met with lawmakers during separate briefings held Wednesday for members of the House and Senate.
Other participants included Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security; Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the head of both the U.S. Cyber Command Commander and National Security Agency; Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security; and Kenneth P. Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security.
“Today we shared with Congress how we continue to bring the full strength, capabilities, and expertise of our departments and agencies to identify and defend against threats to the United States,” they said in a joint statement afterward.
“Just like our successful, whole-of-government approach to securing the 2018 elections, we will work together with our Federal, state, local and private sector partners as well as our foreign allies to protect the 2020 elections and maintain transparency with the American public about our efforts,” the statement said.
The U.S. government has accused Russia of interfering in the 2016 race, and the Department of Justice has filed related criminal charges against dozens of Russian nationals, including alleged state-sponsored hackers and internet trolls. Moscow has denied responsibility.