LISTEN LIVE

Russian hacking

The elections office of Florida's third-most populous county was breached by a crippling cyberattack in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, NPR confirmed on Thursday.

There is no indication that the ransomware attack was connected to Russian interference efforts leading up to the last presidential race, but the revelation about it now shows how election officials are preparing for this year's election without knowing all the details of what happened before.

Florida's top elections officer insisted Tuesday that her state's voting systems are adequately prepared for electronic attacks despite persistent concerns that hackers could again infiltrate the state's voting systems.

If the FBI discovers that foreign hackers have infiltrated the networks of your county election office, you may not find out about it until after voting is over. And your governor and other state officials may be kept in the dark, too.

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.
MyFloridaHouse.gov

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.

DeSantis Redistributes Election Security Money

Jun 17, 2019
Gov. Ron DeSantis stands at a podium surrounded by officials as he announces a plan to evaluate the security of Florida's elections systems.
Courtesy Governor's Press Office

A month after learning Russian hackers breached elections systems in two Florida counties in 2016, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said his administration is focused on identifying “any vulnerabilities” ahead of next year’s elections.

The Republican governor announced he is redistributing $2.3 million in election-security money that went unspent by county elections supervisors last year. The funds are in addition to $2.8 million for elections cybersecurity Florida lawmakers earmarked in the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1.

Hand dropping ballot into a box.
Drew McKissick / Flickr

Threats to Florida elections are often so inconspicuous that people don’t notice them.

They exist behind the glowing light of your cellphone on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Pasco County’s Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley sent out a letter this week urging voters to be aware of possible cybersecurity threats ahead of the 2020 election.

Describing it as a “top priority,” Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday directed Secretary of State Laurel Lee to immediately start a review of the security of state and county elections systems after disclosures about Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign.

In a one-page letter to Lee, the state’s top elections official, DeSantis indicated the review will focus on cybersecurity and involve all 67 counties.

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Florida lawmakers were angry Thursday when they emerged from an FBI briefing that left them with unanswered questions about the two county election offices in their state that were breached by Russian cyberattacks in 2016.

Russian hackers breached the systems of two county elections systems in Florida in 2016, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday at a news conference. DeSantis said no data were tampered with and vote tallies were not affected.

The intrusions, which had not ever been publicly confirmed, were first disclosed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report about Russian interference in the 2016 election last month.

Russian hackers gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.

DeSantis said the hackers didn’t manipulate any data and the election results weren’t compromised. He and officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were briefed by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security on Friday.

The FBI will brief Florida’s congressional members this week on Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election, after the Mueller report revealed last month that the election system of at least one Florida county was compromised.

But even before details emerge, a former supervisor of elections in Florida is saying he is not surprised that the state’s system was compromised. Ion Sancho, the longtime former supervisor of elections of Leon County, said Friday on The Florida Roundup that Florida’s election infrastructure is, frankly, “not secure.”

The Justice Department added another piece to the puzzle of its Russia investigation on Friday with charges against GOP political consultant Roger Stone — but the full picture still isn't complete.

Stone was arrested in Florida following an indictment by a grand jury working with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Federal officials this week advised Florida’s top elections official they “have not seen new or ongoing compromises,” as Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans ratchet up political attacks over a statement by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that “Russians are in Florida’s election records.”

FLgov.com and WJCT News

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, calling the allegations sensational, demanded on Friday that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson provide proof to back up his statement that Russian operatives have penetrated some of his state's election systems ahead of this year's crucial election.

Scott, a Republican, is running against Nelson, a Democrat, in November's midterm elections. During a campaign stop in Tampa, Scott said Nelson must provide "evidence for his claims."

Updated at 7:13 p.m. ET

President Trump's effort to reset relations with Russia backfired at home after he failed to side with the U.S. intelligence community over Moscow's interference in the 2016 election. The president's equivocation drew bipartisan condemnation, capping a week in which Trump alienated allies and cozied up to adversaries.

Trump himself declared his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki a success, in what he called the "proud tradition of bold American diplomacy."

President Trump is now faced with a decision on whether to sign into law new sanctions meant to punish Russia for interfering in last year's presidential election, after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure Thursday.

The bill, the first major foreign policy legislation to emerge from Congress since the president took office, also includes sanctions on North Korea and Iran. It easily passed the Senate in a 98-2 vote after sailing through the House by a similarly veto-proof 419-3 margin.

Jeff Sessions did exactly what he needed to do Tuesday — help himself in the eyes of his boss, President Trump, and, in turn, help Trump.

The attorney general, an early Trump supporter, revealed little in the congressional hearing about the ongoing Russia saga or Trump's role in possibly trying to quash the investigation looking into it.

Using vague legal justification, Sessions shut down potentially important lines of investigative questioning — and that may be exactly how the White House wants it.

The nation's top legal officer is set to go before Congress on Tuesday to try to defuse a bomb that the former FBI director dropped into his lap.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee less than one week after James Comey told the committee he could not discuss openly certain information about Sessions' recusal from the investigation into Russia's election meddling last year.

Updated at 6:28 p.m. ET

Former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that President Trump did ask him for "loyalty" at a January dinner and later told him alone in the Oval Office that he "hope[d] you can let" the investigation into former national security director Michael Flynn "go."