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FBI: Foreign Hackers Broke Into State Election Systems |

Menzel said he had been told by the FBI that "foreign hackers" compromised systems and that there was a "possible link" with the attack against the Democratic National Committee servers, which is believed by some to have been carried out by Russian state actors.

FBI: Foreign hackers broke into state election systems |

Over the course of the election, a wide-ranging group of Russians probed state voter databases for insecurities; hacked the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee; tried to hack the campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio and the Republican National Committee; released politically damaging information on the internet; spread propaganda on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram; staged rallies in Florida and Pennsylvania; set up meetings with members of the Trump campaign and its associates; and floated a business proposition for a skyscraper in Moscow to the Trump Organization.

The FBI alerted states to the threat about two months before the 2016 election when hackers accessed voter registration databases in Illinois and Arizona. Then in January 2017, the government issued its first report on election interference and blamed Russia for the hacks. However, DHS did not tell top state officials that their systems were scanned by hackers until nearly a year after the election.

The possibility that a foreign government covertly interfered with US elections to achieve a particular outcome is staggering and raises the most profound concerns about governance within the United States. An investigation into this matter should not be relegated to the secret corners of the FBI or the CIA. The public has the right to know if Putin or anyone else corrupted the political mechanisms of the nation. There already is reason to be suspicious. Without a thorough examination, there will be more cause to question American democracy.

In June, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said that individuals linked to the Kremlin attempted to infiltrate election-related computer systems in more than twenty states. Authorities do not believe that Russian hackers tampered with the vote count, but said they were likely scanning the systems for weaknesses.

Wealthy businessman Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee, defeated Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party in the November presidential election. Although Clinton received the most votes at the national level, Trump won the presidency by securing a decisive majority in the state-based Electoral College.

Celebrity real-estate developer Donald Trump, an outsider candidate with no previous political experience, won the November presidential election after a year-and-a-half campaign. He secured the Republican Party's nomination in July after defeating a large field of opponents, including several seasoned politicians, in the primary elections. He then scored a major upset in the general election against Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator, and secretary of state. Republicans also maintained their majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives, meaning one party would control both the presidency and Congress for the first time since 2010.

The campaign was also notable for Trump's use of a personal social media account, live rallies, and other means of communicating directly with voters instead of costly television advertising, the typical centerpiece of campaign messaging in recent elections. The news media challenged the veracity of many of Trump's campaign statements, most notably his assertion that the election system was rigged in Clinton's favor.

The election was marred by alleged Russian interference, with U.S. intelligence officials citing strong evidence that hackers tied to the Kremlin had stolen documents from the Democratic Party and leaked them over the course of the campaign period. Clinton's bid was separately hampered by a federal investigation into her improper use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state, though investigators eventually decided against filing charges.

The United States is a presidential republic, with the president serving as both head of state and head of government. Cabinet secretaries and other key officials are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, the upper house of the bicameral Congress. Presidential elections are decided by an Electoral College, making it possible for a candidate to win the presidency while losing the national popular vote. Electoral College votes are apportioned to each state based on the size of its congressional representation. In most cases, all of the electors in a particular state cast their ballots for the candidate who won the statewide popular vote, regardless of the margin. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have chosen to divide their electoral votes between the candidates based on their popular-vote performance in each congressional district. In 2016, Trump won the Electoral College vote, 304 to 227, while finishing nearly three million votes behind Clinton in the popular ballot. The 2016 election marked the second time since 2000 that the candidate with the most popular votes lost in the Electoral College.

In recent months, U.S. national security officials have been preparing for Russian interference in the 2020 presidential race by tracking cyber threats, sharing intelligence about foreign disinformation efforts with social media companies and helping state election officials protect their systems against foreign manipulation.

The department has contacted officials in all 50 states to help secure their election infrastructures, and is sharing threat data with state and local election offices, social media firms, political parties and others. Election security and foreign influence task forces the department set up in 2017 have been made permanent under its new National Risk Management Center.

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