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Facing Nelson’s warning, Homeland Security says it hasn’t seen ‘any new compromises’ by Russians

Nelson's comments, which he stood by Thursday, have whipped up questions and a push-back from the state of Florida.
Published Aug. 9, 2018|Updated Aug. 9, 2018

Update from Nelson's office: "The senator stands by his statement."

The Times is seeking more information.

WASHINGTON – Despite what Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security says it hasn't seen "any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure."

"While we are aware of Senator Nelson's recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure," spokeswoman Sara Sendek said in a statement.

"That said, we don't need to wait for a specific threat to be ready. DHS and Florida state and county officials have partnered on a number of initiatives to secure their election systems, including sharing threat information between the federal, state and local governments, conducting training for county election supervisors, and providing technical assistance to counties – as we are with other jurisdictions across the country."

The statement also said: "We know that in 2016 Russian government cyber actors sought access to U.S. election infrastructure as part of a multifaceted operation directed at the U.S. elections. We continue to assess Russian actors were not able to access vote tallying systems, though we consider all 50 states to have been potential targets."

Yesterday, the state of Florida said it had no information to corroborate the claims.

Nelson on Wednesday told the Tampa Bay Times before a campaign event in Tampa that Russian operatives have "penetrated certain counties in the state" and attributed it to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records," Nelson said, referring to a July letter he and Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the committee, sent to Florida's 67 county election supervisors.

Rubio has raised similar warnings as Nelson, and has privately discussed them with county election officials, but did not go as far and declined comment Wednesday.

Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, declined comment. Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat, issued a statement that neither confirmed nor disputed what Nelson said.

"Russian activities continue to pose a threat to the security of our elections, as Senators Nelson and Rubio rightly pointed out in their letter. … I hope all state and local elections officials, including Florida's, will take this issue seriously."

Bill Nelson: The Russians have penetrated some Florida voter registration systems

The state yesterday said: "The Florida Department of State has received zero information from Senator Nelson or his staff that support his claims. Additionally, the Department has received no information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that corroborates Senator Nelson's statement and we have no evidence to support these claims. If Senator Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida."


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