WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/CNN) – Members of the Florida congressional delegation were briefed Thursday by the FBI on Russian hacking county elections departments.
The briefing comes after last month’s release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that said a Russian intelligence agency gained access to at least one Florida county-government computer network in 2016.
Earlier this week, after his briefing with the FBI, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Russian hackers had gained access to voter databases in two counties ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
“There was no manipulation or anything, but there was voter data that was able to be got,” DeSantis said. “Now, that voter data I think was public anyway. Nevertheless, those were intrusions. It did not affect any voting, or anything like that.”
On Thursday, Senator Rick Scott issued a statement after his briefing by the FBI. Scott echoed DeSantis claim that there is no evidence to suggest that any voting records or systems were manipulated.
“While the FBI told me the voter files for two Florida counties were successfully accessed prior to the 2016 election, the FBI confirmed that there is no evidence to suggest that any voting records or systems were manipulated,” he wrote.
Election hacking concerns were brought to light last year also from former U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. Shortly after, in a joint letter, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security said there was no evidence.
Scott said he was told by the FBI that there was no evidence to support the claim that the Russians still had access to Florida’s election systems at the time of the 2018 election.
“I want to be clear: the FBI verified that there was no evidence of a breach of Florida’s election records at the time voting occurred in 2018. The FBI could not provide any evidence to support the claims about security during the 2018 election made by then-Senator Nelson, which confirms the conclusion of both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security at the time. Due to the classified nature of this information and the ongoing investigation, I am not able to reveal what counties were accessed,” he wrote.
“One thing that was very concerning to me was that we couldn’t get with certainty the verification that the Russians actually were not able to manipulate the data that they had access to. The found no evidence of that but they couldn’t say with certainty that they did not manipulate that data and that is something that is concerning to me,” said Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.
“Another part of the Russian interference was the undermining the confidence of our voters and this is incredibly important as we head into the 2020 elections. I want to make sure that all Floridians know that your congress members are in close communication with the FBI, with the Department of Homeland Security. I will make sure my Supervisor of Elections, both in Monroe County and Miami-Dade County, have the information that they need, that they receive the technical assistance that they need as we prepare for 2020, and they get the training that they need which is fully available right now from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security,” she added.
WATCH ENTIRE FlORIDA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION NEWS CONFERENCE HERE
“The Russian intrusions revealed to Florida’s delegation today are deeply concerning, and investigators should not withhold this information from the real victims: voters in those two counties. This lack of transparency diminishes confidence in our election systems. It is also disappointing that then-Gov. Rick Scott chose to exploit and trivialize this now-documented assault on our state for political gain last year, despite the prudent and guarded warnings Sen. Nelson made at the time,” said Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Charlie Crist in a joint statement.
“I was particularly alarmed by the information that out of 67 Florida counties, only the former Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections turned down a system that would allow detection of attempted hacking of voting equipment. I have been assured by our new supervisor that she is in the process of adopting these safeguards,” said Rep. Lois Frankel.
During Russia’s multi-pronged interference campaign of 2016 the GRU, Russian military intelligence, created an email phishing campaign aimed at Florida county election employees in the summer preceding the presidential election.
The campaign targeted VR Systems, an electronic pollbook manufacturer that a number of Florida counties use to maintain their voter registration databases. The GRU hackers then sent out phishing emails from Gmail accounts with VR Systems in its name, and with a malicious file attached to more than 120 county election officials.
Many of those emails were ignored, went to spam, or were properly flagged as a potential attack. The special counsel’s claim was the first public indication that someone fell for them.
(©2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)