A new report from the Senate Intelligence committee on Russian hacking has raised more serious questions about Florida election security in 2016.
But Rick Scott — who was Florida’s governor at the time of the hacking and is now its U.S. Senator — said he hasn’t read the report.
The admission came on Sunday’s Meet the Press, when host Chuck Todd asked Scott if he learned anything new from the report. Scott replied: “Well, that report I’ve not seen.”
“Why not? You haven’t read this report yet? It got released on Thursday,” Todd pressed.
“I have not read that report yet," Scott said. “I have gotten briefings.”
The heavily redacted 67-page report details efforts by Russians to penetrate election networks in “State 2," which is never named but mostly aligns with previous disclosures about the election system hacking attempts in Florida. It includes new information that the FBI at one point thought four county elections had been hacked in “State 2” — twice as many as reported in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report.
The report also shows that as evidence mounted in 2018 that Russia had hacked into local election offices, it appears that Scott’s administration doubled down that hacking didn’t take place in Florida — including in a conference call with Senate Intelligence Committee staff.
“We did not see any unusual activities. I would have known about it personally,” the officials told committee staffers, according to the report. “State 2 did not want to share with the Committee its cybersecurity posture, but state officials communicated that they are highly confident in the security of their systems.”
While Scott was unhurried to read the report, Florida’s senior senator, Marco Rubio, has made publicizing the reports findings a top priority. Rubio is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and has repeatedly raised the alarm about the readiness of Florida’s election officials — who until 2018 reported to Scott.
Rubio said those officials were “overconfident” in their ability to protect Florida election systems from Russian interference. Scott seemed to push back against this on Meet the Press, insisting his administration put resources into combatting cyber attacks.
During the 2018 election, then-Sen. Bill Nelson made similar claims about Russia having access to Florida election systems. “They now have free rein to move about,” Nelson said.
Scott, who was running against the incumbent Democrat, responded by criticizing Nelson and insinuated the 77-year-old was confused or careless with classified information. But on Sunday, Scott said: "The Russians are here. They’re going to try to get into our system.”
The FBI briefed Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Florida members of Congress on Russia hacking here but the information is classified and they cannot share what they learned with the public. Scott on Meet the Press said he hadn’t learned about any hacking in Florida until the Mueller report came out, though the Tampa Bay Times and other outlets reported last year of an attempted phishing attack on county election systems.
In the same interview, Todd asked Scott about President Donald Trump’s tweets attacking Rep. Elijah Cummings, a black Democratic congressman, and his Maryland district.
Scott stumbled to respond for a bit before he said, “I didn’t do the tweet," and then went on to criticize Cummings.
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