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Russia election threat gets attention on Capitol Hill

Briefing comes as Sen. Bill Nelson ignited controversy in Florida.
Russian president Vladimir Putin. (The Associated Press)
Russian president Vladimir Putin. (The Associated Press)
Published Aug. 22, 2018
Updated Aug. 22, 2018

WASHINGTON – As focus continues on Florida's election security, all senators will get a classified briefing this afternoon on the threat posed by Russian operatives and other actors ahead of the midterm elections.

The Senate is to recess for an hour at 3:30 p.m. for the session, to include Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

It comes two weeks after Sen. Bill Nelson raised alarms about hacking in Florida — claims that have come under attack by Gov. Rick Scott and were countered yesterday by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI.

On Monday, Microsoft said it had uncovered a scheme by Russian hackers to target Senate websites and two conservative think tanks. The goal was to fake users into giving up their passwords so real sites could be compromised.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., revealed recently that she was targeted.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Florida Republican Marco Rubio, have been pushing for legislation to punish interference. Rubio is pushing a bill called the DETER Act that would impose economic sanctions, but it has been slowed by a concern that it would grant too much power to the director of national intelligence.

During a hearing yesterday, Rubio said he is open to changes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been favorable to the bill but said Tuesday that it's unlikely any such legislation will be considered until October.