Democrat Rips Republicans for Reaping What They Sowed After NRCC Election Hack, Will Investigate

On the heels of a reported cyberattack on the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2018 midterm elections, the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee jabbed at Republicans who fought against implementing additional election security measures.

Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said Tuesday that Republicans “ignored election security at their own peril,” adding in his statement that the GOP ignored prior Russian election meddling and “swept the issue aside” in recent years.

Politico reported Tuesday that the NRCC was hacked earlier this year by an “unknown entity,” and the email accounts of four senior aides were surveilled for months. NRCC spokesman Ian Prior later confirmed the report to Newsweek, saying an internal investigation took place and that the FBI was conducting an ongoing inquiry.

The breach, which was discovered in April, was only reportedly known by high-level party officials and some Republican lawmakers. However, House Republican leaders such as Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy were unaware of the intrusion.  

“News of this hack—which was not released for months—makes it clear Republicans ignored election security at their own peril,” Thompson said. “Democrats led on election security the entire 115th Congress and Republicans should have joined us.”

Democrat Rips Republicans for Reaping What They Sowed After NRCC Election Hack, Will Investigate Ranking Member Bennie Thompson, the Democrat from Mississippi, questions witnesses during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on February 10, 2016. On Tuesday, Thompson jabbed at Republicans who fought against additional election security measures after a reported cyberattack on the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2018 midterm elections. Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images

Around the same time as the breach, lawmakers included $380 million of federal funds in the March omnibus spending bill for states to bolster their election security systems.  

In July, twelve Russian nationals were indicted for their roles in election interference as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of 2016 Russian election meddling. That same month, The Daily Beast previously reported election cyberattacks targeting Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Despite these revelations, a measure that would have provided an additional $250 million for states to use for election security was rejected by Senate Republicans just weeks later.

But “nevertheless,” Thompson said he would direct the Homeland Security Committee to investigate the breach during the new session of Congress as part of its oversight on election security matters. Thompson said Republicans “should feel secure knowing that Democrats will continue to lead on cybersecurity.”

Election and cybersecurity experts told Newsweek in August that any protective measures implemented would be too little, too late for the 2018 midterms, and that local and state elections officials should instead focus on preparing for 2020. 

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