Politics

DNC Said No Thanks to Help After Hack

Former Homeland chief says feds could have done more

Jeh Johnson, who formally led the Department of Homeland Security, said in hindsight there was more the federal government could have done to prevent hacking and election interference. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday the Democratic National Committee turned down help from the FBI after its system was hacked — and that he had not known about it for months.

“What are we doing? Are we in there?” Johnson said he asked when he became aware of the intrusion. He said the response he received was that the FBI had spoken to the committee but “they don’t want our help.”

“I should have bought a sleeping bag and camped out at the DNC,” Johnson told the panel about what he would have done differently.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is one of three members who has taken the lead on the panel’s widespread Russia investigation, later circled back and said camping out would not have made a difference because the DNC also refused to turn over its servers to law enforcement officials to find the culprit.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who was the chairwoman of the DNC at the time of the hack, said no one at the FBI contacted her at the time.

“At no point during my tenure at the DNC did anyone from the FBI or any other government agency contact or communicate with me about Russian intrusion on the DNC network. It is astounding to me that the Chair of an organization like the DNC was never contacted by the FBI or any other agency concerned about these intrusions. As a member of Congress, I had the unique clearance to hear any classified briefing that would be involved in such an intrusion, and the FBI clearly should have come to me with that information. They did not. If the FBI or any other government agency ever came to me with that information, I would have gladly welcomed their help,” she said in a statement released after Johnson’s testimony. 

Johnson also testified he had evidence there were dozens of states targeted by cyber intrusions of voter registration lists and made several public statements on the matter that had been overlooked by a heated presidential campaign.

One of those statements was made the day a 2005 Access Hollywood tape was unearthed that showed Donald Trump making unsavory comments about approaching women.

Despite that hacking, Johnson said he did not see evidence that votes were altered as a result of cyber attacks before he stepped down from his role as Homeland Security secretary.

Johnson’s testimony came as the Intelligence Committee held its third open hearing since launching an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The panel has also heard from former FBI Director James B. Comey and former CIA Director John Brennan.

Absent from Wednesday’s House Intelligence hearing was the panel’s chairman, Devin Nunes, who stepped aside from leading the Russia investigation after he became the subject of an Ethics Committee probe into improperly publicizing classified information.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting its own investigation on the matter and a special prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, has been appointed by the president’s administration to do his own digging.

Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriterGet breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.