In a Twitter tweet, President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired top cybersecurity official Chris Krebs, accusing him without proof of making a “highly misleading” assertion affirming that the November 3 election was safe and denying fraud allegations.
Trump has made debunked claims that the race was “rigged” and that President-elect Joe Biden has failed to concede defeat. In swing states, his campaign has filed a flurry of complaints, while election officials of both parties have said they find no proof of severe violations.
The role of Krebs in defending the election from hacking and countering voter misinformation earned support from both parties’ lawmakers as well as state and election officials throughout the nation. Yet he drew the wrath of Trump and his supporters, who were irked at his failure to support claims of political intervention.
Last week, Reuters confirmed that Krebs had told colleagues he was planning to be fired.
In a “highly misleading” comment, Trump said on Twitter that Krebs had told voters that the election was safe when there were “huge improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling sites,” and voting machine mistakes that switched votes from Trump to Biden.
The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud – including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, “glitches” in the voting machines which changed…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2020
On Monday, hundreds of election security experts published a letter arguing that reports of big attacks on their faces were baseless and ridiculous.
On Trump’s tweets, Twitter slapped warning marks, noting: “This assertion of electoral fraud is contested.”
From its establishment two years ago, Krebs led the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Service (Cisa).
According to the three people familiar with the matter, he irritated the White House over a website run by Cisa called “Rumor Management,” which debunks misinformation about the election.
A spokeswoman for Cisa said that the organisation had no comment.
According to a source familiar with the matter, Krebs was not granted warning of Trump’s intention to fire him, and learned of the decision via Twitter.
On Tuesday night, Matthew Travis, Krebs’s deputy and number two at the department, resigned.
On Wednesday, an agency official told Reuters on condition of anonymity, Cisa Executive Director Brandon Wales is set to take over for Krebs as the agency’s acting president.
Wales has served under the Trump administration in several capacities within the DHS and is not seen as a political figure, said a former colleague.
Last week’s Reuters article sparked an outpouring of support from security analysts around the world, who in the past two years have lauded Krebs for his bipartisan work.
According to two former officials, White House discontent with Krebs increased over the past year when Trump attacked the protection of mail-in voting and Krebs’ department responded by claiming it represented a convenient way to vote. Owing to fears about the coronavirus pandemic, mail-in balloting hit a historic high this year.
‘We did it right’
Krebs did not back down on his own Twitter account, writing:’ Honoured to serve. We’ve got that correctly. Today Protect, Stable Tomorrow.
Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow. #Protect2020
— Chris Krebs (@C_C_Krebs) November 18, 2020
Earlier, White House officials had protested about Cisa material that fought back against bogus election allegations, including that Democrats were behind a mass election manipulation scheme. Officials from Cisa refused to delete correct records.
Among other stuff, one Krebs associate said the White House was upset about a post denying a theory of collusion that wrongly suggested that a supercomputer and programme intelligence organisation, supposedly called Hammer and Scorecard, may have flipped votes nationwide. According to Krebs, election security analysts and former US officials, no such scheme exists.
“President-elect Joe Biden’s spokesperson said: “Chris Krebs should be praised for his service in defending our elections, not fired for revealing the facts.
The step by Trump was also immediately criticised by intelligence officials and opponents of the White House.
“Harri Hursti, an authority on electronic voting security, said, “Krebs was doing valuable work protecting sensitive infrastructure and countering misinformation. “His dismissal is quite disappointing and seems to be an attempt to discredit the outstanding job he and others have been doing at DHS/Cisa.”
Democrat Adam Schiff, who chairs the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives, said: “Cisa and Director Krebs have tirelessly worked to protect our elections, offer crucial assistance to state and local election authorities, and educate the American people of what was real and what was not.”
Trump was “firing Mr. Krebs for merely doing his job,” independent Senator Angus King said.
I hope that President-elect Biden will appreciate the efforts of Chris and consult with him when this critically significant agency’s future is charted by the Biden administration,” King said.”
Among the first Republicans to press out against the move was Senator Ben Sasse, who has been a Trump critic.
“As state election officials all over the country will tell you, Chris Krebs did a very good job and he certainly should not be fired,” Sasse said in a statement.