Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen said Friday that the upcoming midterm vote would be “the most secure election we’ve ever had.”
“As of today we do not have any indication that a foreign government has a sustained effort to hack our election infrastructure,” Nielsen said Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations. She did not detail how the administration was more prepared for the 2018 midterms than past elections.
Nielsen’s statements Friday come after weeks of uncertainty about what the Trump administration was doing in the wake of the 2016 presidential election to prevent foreign influence campaigns and attacks by outsiders on the U.S. voting infrastructure system. Senior officials in DHS had previously told The Daily Beast that the department was behind in its plans to thwart foreign meddling, claiming there had been just one meeting about the subject with the National Security Council.
Since then, the department has issued a report indicating that while the administration is concerned about attempts by foreigners to alter the results of the election, it had not seen any disruption in infrastructure that would prevent people from voting or change how votes are counted.
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t attempts to access the voting systems,” said John Cohen, the former deputy under secretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS. “These things are fluid. Just because today the department isn’t seeing something that will change things doesn’t mean they won’t come election time. Basically, they don’t know what they don’t know.”
Despite her statements at the top of the meeting, Nielsen said later that there in fact had been attempts to access to the U.S. voting infrastructure in some states, but the administration had not made the determination those actors were linked to a foreign government.
“My biggest concern is that a foreign entity will take the opportunity after the election or the night of the election to attempt to sow discord on social media by suggesting that something did not work as it should,” Nielsen said. “We have to not jump to conclusions as Americans. We just need to pause election night and not jump to conclusions.”