Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday sought to further clarify the US position on Chinese influence operations, after President Trump implied that Beijing might try and interfere in upcoming elections.
"They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade," Trump said during his UN speech last month, stoking speculation over election influence.
Days later, Nielsen said that there is "currently no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastruture" - an opinion she repeated during Wednesday Senate testimony on election security threats.
DHS Sec Nielsen clarifying remarks on China and influence operations: China is "absolutely exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion." But..."we have not seen to date any Chinese attempts to compromise (election) infrastructure. Testifying to Senate.— Ellen Nakashima (@nakashimae) October 10, 2018
And while China is apparently off the hook insofar as "compromising election infrastructure" is concerned, Nielsen also warned that America is now facing a "pandemic" of threats from cyber-thieves and cyber-spies around the world.
The "viral spread" of malicious software has created "a worldwide outbreak of cyberattacks and cyber vulnerabilities," she said in her opening remarks before a Senate panel, vowing that her department is doing everything it can to protect the upcoming midterm elections from foreign interference. -ABC
"With weeks to go until the midterms, top of mind for most Americans is the Russian interference in our 2016 elections. This was a direct attack on our democracy," she said. "We should not, cannot, and will not tolerate such attacks, nor let them happen again."
DHS will be deploying "security sensors" ahead of midterms to monitor state election infrastructure around the country, covering around 90 percent of registered voters, according to Nielsen.
"And on Election Day, we will be out in full force and hosting a virtual, nationwide 'situation room' to assist our partners," she said.
During the hearing a group of mylar-clad protesters interrupted Nielsen's speech, holding up signs which read "Families Belong Together," in reference to Trump's immigration policy.