Crawford & Cotton Question Intelligence Officials On Election Meddling

Jun 21, 2017

On Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, two Arkansas congressmen joined their colleagues in questioning intelligence officials on foreign attempts to compromise American voting systems in the 2016 election.

In a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton opened his line of questioning of FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Bill Priestap with a political statement. Cotton referred to earlier comments made by Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who suggested that then-candidate Donald Trump had been an unwitting accomplice of Russian actors during the presidential campaign.

“Since her election defeat, Hillary Clinton has blamed her loss on the Russians, Vladimir Putin, the FBI, Jim Comey, fake news, Wikileaks, Twitter, Facebook and my personal favorite, content farms in Macedonia. In blaming her loss on these actors, has Hillary Clinton become an unwitting agent of Russians’ goals in the United States?” Cotton asked.

Priestrap declined to respond to Cotton’s query. Cotton then proceeded to ask Priestrap a series of questions related to rules relating to Russian diplomats’ travel within the United States. 

Watch the Senate hearing here.

Sen. Tom Cotton (left) and Rep. Rick Crawford (right)
Credit C-SPAN

In the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Arkansas First District Congressman Rick Crawford’s questioning of former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson centered on the capabilities of foreign agents in hacking a voting system.

“For them to fully affect the outcome of the election in terms of manipulating numbers, would they not need to have some sort of complicit individual present to affect that?” Crawford, who represents much of northeast Arkansas, asked.

“I don’t think I’m prepared to agree with that,” Johnson responded, elaborating that foreign agents shouldn’t be underestimated.

“You never know the limits of human ingenuity.”

In the Senate Intelligence Committee, a DHS official told lawmakers that people affiliated with the Russian government attempted to hack voting systems in 21 states.

Watch the House hearing here.

An Arkansas Secretary of State spokesman says there is no evidence of a compromise of Arkansas’s voting systems in the 2016 election. Spokesman Chris Powell told KUAR in an email that the office employs IT staff to “continually monitor” voting systems and the office works with vendors on security.

“One major effort our office has been focused on is the upgrade and modernization of our election equipment and software across the state.  Those counties that have not already been upgraded are relying on equipment and software that is a decade old and nearing the end of its shelf life.  We have sought funds to be able to upgrade every county with the latest state-of-the art equipment and will continue to do so,” Powell said.