Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson: DNC Declined Our Offer to Help Fight Russian Hacking

Wednesday while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing on Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his department offered to help the Democratic National Committee, then chaired by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), whose email communications were hacked and released to the public by Wikileaks.

Johnson said, “The response I got was — FBI had spoken to them, they don’t want our help, they have Crowd Strike cyber security firm.”

Partial transcript as follows:

KING: Can you elaborate more on what the DHS’s connection with the DNC was, or consultation with the DNC after it became aware of the hacking, as to what was offered them, what they accepted? Was there any level of cooperation at all?

JOHNSON: To my disappointment, not to my knowledge, sir. And this is a question I asked repeatedly when I first learned of it—”What are we doing? Are we in there? Are we helping them discover the vulnerabilities?” Because this is fresh off the experience and there was a point at which DHS cybersecurity experts did get into OPM and help them discover the bad actors and patch some of the infiltrations, or at least minimize some of the damage. So I was anxious to know whether our folks were in there and the response I got was—FBI had spoken to them, they don’t want our help, they have Crowd Strike cybersecurity firm, and that was the answer I got after I asked the question a number of times over the progression of time.

KING: That was I assume totally different from the reaction you got from OPM.

JOHNSON: The OPM effort—we were in there on site helping them find the bad actors.

KING: Do you know who it was at the DNC who made that decision?

JOHNSON: I don’t. No.

KING: Do you know if the FBI continued to try to help, try to assist?

JOHNSON: I’ve read in the “The New York Times” about those efforts, sometime earlier this year.

KING: I moved to strike all references to the “The New York Times.” I would just say, maybe it’s editorializing my part, it’s an unusual response of the DNC. If you’re talking about a presidential election, you have an unprecedented matter of cyber hacking, an adversary from my point of view, and they would not accept all the help they could be given, especially—it sounds as if—not that you would be part—it sounds like a Republican administration trying to intrude into the DNC. This is an impartial governmental entity of the FBI, DHS, and they didn’t accept it. I find that very hard to comprehend.

JOHNSON: My interest in helping them was definitely a nonpartisan interest.

KING: I know that, yeah.

JOHNSON: And I recall very clearly that I was not pleased that we were not in there helping them patch this vulnerability. The nature—the nature when you’re dealing with private actors and even political organizations, we—DHS does not have the power to issue a search warrant and go in and patch their vulnerabilities over their objections.

Wasserman Schultz responded with a statement denying that any federal agency had made an inquiry.

“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.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN


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