Reid Asks FBI to Investigate Possible 'Russian Government Tampering in Our Presidential Election'

By Susan Jones | August 31, 2016 | 5:55am EDT
Amid concern about hacking, the White House says it is considering a "critical infrastructure designation" for state and local voting systems. (AP File Photo)

( - In an Aug. 27 letter to the FBI, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he's "concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results."

Reid also mentioned "evidence of a direct connection" between the Russian government and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He is asking the FBI to investigate the "prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections."

Reid's request follows reports that the FBI has detected "breaches" in voter registration databases, but not the actual vote-counting system, in Arizona and Illinois.

At the White House on Tuesday, a reporter asked spokesman Josh Earnest if "you guys actually see cyber threats affecting the outcome of the election as a real possibility here?"

"I think people can have a lot of confidence in the election system, in part because it's not centralized," Earnest said. "Elections are administered and conducted by state and local authorities, which means you essentially have a patchwork of systems across the country that maintain the records and administer these elections.

"Sometimes, the consequences for that kind of varied system means that it's hard to implement reforms across the board...That also makes it harder to hack the system. It certainly wasn't designed that way, but that is one of the benefits."

On Monday, Earnest told reporters that the Obama White House may designate certain state voting systems as "pieces of critical infrastructure," which would give federal technology experts "more of a role in assisting the administrators of those networks as they deter intrusions."

On Tuesday, Earnest repeated that Obama's national security team is continuing its "active discussion" about designating election administration systems as critical infrastructure.

"If so, that would qualify those systems for enhanced protection and enhanced resources from the federal government. But no decision has been made on that at this point," he said.

"In the meantime, we'll continue to stay in close touch with election administrators to help them safeguard their systems, and continue to give people confidence in the ability of the election to take place and us to continue to have confidence in the results."

Earnest said the administration is "vigilant about the threats that exist out there. And it's an evolving environment. And so we need to be aware of the fact that our adversaries, whether they're criminal or state organized, that they're always evolving and that they're dynamic, and that they're tenacious. And we need to devote significant resources and be similarly creative to deter those threats.

"And we certainly are committed to working with state and local officials who are responsible for administering elections to help them do that."

Earnest could not say when the national security team will make a decision about a critical infrastructure designation for state and local voting systems.

MRC Store