Sean Spicer couldn’t tell us Tuesday whether Donald Trump believes Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, but former Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson didn’t mince words on the topic during a House Intelligence hearing Wednesday. Here’s a transcribed back and forth between Johnson and Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell:
Rep. Swalwell: Was our democracy attacked this last election?
Swalwell: By who?
Johnson: “The Russian government.”
Yet Trump isn’t sure, or at least he and his White House won’t say so publicly. In fact, Johnson testified Wednesday that Trump’s promotion last fall of the election’s vulnerability dissuaded him, at least in part, from making a more high-profile public case about Russia’s interference at the time. NPR’s Brian Naylor writes:
One of the candidates, Johnson said, not naming but clearly referring to Donald Trump, “was predicting that the election was going to be rigged,” Johnson said, and so we were concerned that
making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process.”
Well, that ship has come and gone now. But over on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, current Homeland Security officials told the Intelligence panel that they are persisting with the same type of caution that proved completely ineffective last fall for Johnson. DHS officials said they have identified 21 states where voting systems were targeted by the Russians, though they still refuse to name those states.