AP NEWS

FBI asked to brief Florida congressional delegation about 2016 hack revealed in Mueller report

May 2, 2019

Members of Congress sought answers Thursday about an apparently successful breach by the Russian government of a Florida county’s computer network during the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Florida Democrat, and Rep. Michael Waltz, Florida Republican, asked the Department of Justice and FBI to provide details about the intrusion after it was briefly mentioned in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

“As United States Representatives from Florida and former national security professionals, we write to respectfully request a classified briefing for the Florida delegation on the nature and extent of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election in our state,” they wrote in a letter. “We are determined to learn as much as we can about what transpired so that, as lawmakers, we can take appropriate steps to prevent such intrusions from reoccurring in the future.”

The FBI declined to comment in response to an inquiry from The Washington Times.

Released last month following the completion of the special counsel’s probe, Mr. Mueller’s sprawling but largely redacted report revealed that the FBI believes the GRU, a Russian government military agency, successfully gained unauthorized access during the 2016 race “to the network of at least one Florida county government.”

Florida election officials said they were unaware of the apparent breach prior to the release of Mr. Mueller’s findings 2.5 years later, prompting complaints in the weeks since from politicians spanning both the state and political spectrum.

“Florida voters have the right to know the extent to which foreign actors may have breached our state’s election security systems, and what the federal government is doing to prevent it from happening again,” said Ms. Murphy, a former national security specialist for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“The FBI needs to brief the Florida delegation on exactly what Russia did and which counties were involved so we can protect our elections and the voters,” added Mr. Waltz, a former officer in the Army National Guard Special Forces.

Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott, both Republicans, said last week that they expected to be briefly shortly by the FBI on the breach. Mr. Scott was Florida’s former governor before becoming a senator.

“They won’t tell us which county it was, are you kidding me?” Mr. DeSantis complained last week. “Why would you have not said something immediately?”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, has since acknowledged being made aware of the breach on account of his role as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Discussing the incident Friday, Mr. Rubio said that hackers had been “in a position” to change voter rolls in Florida but never appeared to act, The New York Times reported.

The Russian government attacked the 2016 elections in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mr. Mueller’s report concluded. Moscow has denied meddling in the race.