Trump hits out at sacked cybersecurity chief after he tells Senate unfounded election fraud claims are ‘dangerous’

‘Continued assaults on democracy and the outcome of this election … is ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections,' says Chris Krebs

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 16 December 2020 22:36 GMT
Chris Krebs, the former top US official on cybersecurity, in an interview with CBS
Chris Krebs, the former top US official on cybersecurity, in an interview with CBS (CBS News / CBS 60 Minutes)

The former administration official responsible for cybersecurity who was fired by Donald Trump, has told a Senate committee that it was “dangerous” for elected officials to champion unfounded attacks on the 2020 election.

Christopher Krebs, who led the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that such attacks risked undermining public confidence in the democratic process.

Following the hearing, Donald Trump tweeted an attack on Mr Krebs, claiming he had been “excoriated” and “proven wrong”.

Mr Krebs was the one witness called by Democrats on the committee to counter claims by supporters of the president that were either baseless or had been previously dismissed in court – many of which the president went on to mention in his tweet.

In his testimony, Mr Krebs said: “I think we're past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election. I think that continued assaults on democracy and the outcome of this election, that only serves to undermine confidence in the process, is ultimately corrosive to the institutions that support elections.”

The hearing on Wednesday was called by Senate Homeland Security chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, just one day after Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell recognised that Joe Biden is president-elect and Kamala Harris is vice president-elect.

Mr Johnson claimed that he was not disputing the result of the election, merely that he thought it was worth questioning whether the level of fraud would alter the election, CNN reports.

He went on to admit that the dozens of legal cases between 3 November and Monday’s electoral college vote have collectively concluded that it would not.

Other than Mr Krebs, the other witnesses included Ken Starr, one of the impeachment attorneys for the president; James Troupis, who represented the Trump campaign in Wisconsin; Jesse Binnall, who was the campaign’s attorney in Nevada; and GOP Pennsylvania state Representative Francis Ryan.

They were given an almost three-hour period in which to air baseless grievances and discredited conspiracy theories.

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, the top Democrat on the committee, described the hearing as “destructive”.

“Whether intended or not, this hearing gives a platform to conspiracy theories and lies, and it's a destructive exercise that has no place in the United States Senate,” he said.

At one point Mr Peters and Mr Johnson argued, with accusations exchanged of lying and damaging the standing of the committee.

The president meanwhile continued his focus on unfounded claims of electoral fraud: “Chris Krebs was totally excoriated and proven wrong at the Senate Hearing on the Fraudulent 2020 Election. Massive FRAUD took place with machines, people voting from out of state, illegals, dead people, no signatures – and so much more!”

There is no evidence to support these allegations and Twitter flagged the tweet as disputed.

At other points during the hearing, Mr Trump tweeted out his support for Ken Starr saying that Pennsylvania had “flagrantly violated” laws ahead of the election; and for Mr Johnson for doing “an excellent job”, claiming Nevada should be “flipped” based on the testimony presented”.

In his prepared remarks, Mr Krebs did not mention the president by name, but he did speak about the “current wild and baseless domestic claims of hackers and malicious algorithms flipping the vote in states across the country due to ties to deceased foreign dictators serve only to confuse, scare, and ultimately undermine confidence in the election”.

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

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