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Thursday, May 9, 2019

FBI will meet with Florida congressional members next week on Russian hacking

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2019 at 1:32 PM

The Florida congressional delegation will be included next week in a classified briefing with the FBI on suspected Russian hacking during the 2016 election, Politico reported Wednesday.

The meeting between U.S. House members and the FBI is scheduled for May 16. Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott – who berated his 2018 opponent, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, on the campaign trail for claiming the Russians had already found their way into state election systems and had "free reign" – will be debriefed ahead of the delegation meeting.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is also expected to meet with the FBI.

Politico reports that the FBI briefings were confirmed by three people with knowledge of the meetings, none of whom are authorized to speak publicly.

The suspected hacking was brought to light in the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report last month on Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The report details how Russia's military intelligence agency GRU sought access to state and local computer networks by "exploiting known software vulnerabilities on websites of state and local government entities."

Though Florida officials have previously said that there was no suspected hacking, in an interview with the New York Times last month, Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed the intrusion. According to Politico, Rubio's office has clarified that the Russians had access to a statewide voter registration database, not systems used to tally actual votes. With access to the registration database, a hacker could alter or change voter information.

Last week, U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, and Michael Waltz, R-Boynton Beach, asked the Department of Justice and FBI for a classified briefing to be provided to Florida's congressional delegation on the "nature and extent of the Russian government's efforts to interfere in Florida during the 2016 presidential election."

Other than that, most of the Russian government's hacking efforts in the 2016 elections remain unclear for both the public and state officials.

The Florida Department of State, which oversees the state's elections infrastructure, had no knowledge of possible intrusion. In a statement, DOS spokesperson Sarah Revell said the department reached out to the FBI upon the release of Mueller's report to the public. The FBI, however, declined to share the information with DOS, Revell says.

The Mueller report said Russian hackers sent spearphishing emails to more than 120 email accounts operated by Florida county election officials.

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