Ex-Cyber Chief Krebs Calls Election Conspiracies ‘Corrosive’

The U.S. cybersecurity chief fired by Donald Trump last month said continued efforts by the president and his allies to question the election results now that Joe Biden has officially won are having a “corrosive” effect on American institutions.

“Continued assaults on democracy and the outcome of this election that only serves to undermine confidence in the process is ultimately, as you both have said, ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections,” Christopher Krebs, the first director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Ex-Cyber Chief Krebs Calls Election Conspiracies ‘Corrosive’

Trump fired Krebs last month after the former CISA director and other officials called the Nov. 3 election “the most secure in American history,” saying he ignored fraud in the election. Krebs also used CISA’s website before the election to debunk claims of voter fraud from the president and his supporters.

Those moves undercut Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in a “rigged” election, a position he continues to stake out even after dozens of legal challenges failed and the Electoral College on Monday confirmed Biden’s victory.

Trump even criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just after midnight on Wednesday for recognizing Biden’s victory following the Electoral College vote. The president tweeted after the hearing concluded that Krebs “was totally excoriated and proven wrong at the Senate Hearing on the Fraudulent 2020 Election.”

Krebs -- who won rare bipartisan praise after he was fired -- told the committee he’s seen nothing since the election to question his assessment, based on the preparations ahead of voting, cooperation among state and federal officials and the use of paper ballots to confirm the results.

“While elections are sometimes messy, this was a secure election, of that I have no doubt,” Krebs said.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said Krebs focused on the security of the election but not on the allegations of fraud -- which he said happened and that “the election in many ways was stolen.”

Such allegations were repeatedly rejected by state and federal courts for a lack of evidence, and vote results were audited and certified by bipartisan election officials across the U.S.

Krebs debunked one allegation that Trump has promoted on Twitter that there was a 68% error rate in Michigan voting machines based on an audit by a consultant. Krebs, a former Microsoft Corp. executive, said it appears the consultant misinterpreted bad coding.

“I’m seeing these reports that are factually inaccurate continue to be promoted,” Krebs said. “We have to stop this. It’s undermining confidence in democracy.”

‘Restore Confidence’

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the committee’s chairman, said he called the hearing despite criticism because, although he doesn’t challenge the outcome of the election, he believes there was fraud and said it’s important to expose it.

“We must restore confidence in the integrity of our voting system,” Johnson said. “This effort should be bipartisan.”

The committee heard from Ken Starr, the independent counsel during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and part of Trump’s impeachment defense team. Starr focused on the expanded use of mail-in ballots and changes to election rules that weren’t made by state legislatures, singling out Pennsylvania for what he called “clear violation of the law.”

Among the other witnesses were a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission; two lawyers for Trump’s campaign involved in lawsuits in Wisconsin and Nevada; and Republican Representative Francis Ryan of Pennsylvania, who joined commonwealth lawmakers in unsuccessfully challenging results.

Democrats and Republican Senator Mitt Romney had urged that the hearing not take place. Democratic Senator Gary Peters called the session “dangerous,” saying it provided another opportunity for Trump and his supporters to spread disinformation about the election.

“These claims are false, and giving them more oxygen is a grave threat to the future of our democracy,” Peters said.

Krebs said he welcomes a national review to improve trust in elections with more regular funding. But he said he and elections officials have received threats, and that he wished his Republican Party would do more to call out the disinformation. Efforts to perpetuate “fanciful claims” about hacked voting machines flipping votes for Biden and other debunked conspiracy theories are making matters worse, he said.

“We’re seeing stoking of fires that is completely unnecessary,” Krebs said. “We’ve got to move past this.”

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