June 22, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says former DHS secretary is "utterly misinformed" about contact regarding DNC Russian hacks

ELECTION0831 WASSERMAN CTJ@alextdaugherty

Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Thursday that former Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson was "utterly misinformed" after Johnson testified to Congress under oath on Wednesday that the Democratic National Committee refused his organization's help regarding Russian hacking in the 2016 election. 

"The former secretary of homeland security testified yesterday about the Russian hacks during the election and he flat out said that the DNC refused his department's help. You put out a statement afterward basically saying that Jeh Johnson was wrong, where is he wrong?" CNN's Kate Bolduan asked Wasserman Schultz.  

"He's wrong in every respect," Wasserman Schultz said. "Let me just be very clear, at no point during my tenure at the DNC was I contacted by the FBI, DHS or any government agency, or alerted or made aware that they believe the Russians, an enemy state, was intruding on our network." 

Johnson said the opposite during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday. 

"I spelled out in my opening statement -- my prepared statement, the first time I recall hearing about the hack into the DNC," Johnson said. "And I recalled that it had been some months before I was learning of this that the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other about this. And I was not very happy to be learning about it several months later, very clearly." 

Wasserman Schultz stepped down as head of the DNC on July 24, 2016 after leaked emails from WikiLeaks showed that Wasserman Schultz expressed contempt towards Bernie Sanders' campaign manager. She vehemently denied that Johnson or anyone from the Department of Homeland Security directly contacted the DNC about Russian hacking beyond phoning the organization's tech support. 

"The FBI and other federal agencies did virtually nothing to make sure that when they were aware or concerned that there was an intrusion on our network by the Russians that they did virtually nothing to sound the alarm bells to make us aware of that," Wasserman Schultz said. 

Video below: 

 

 

June 19, 2017

Hack attacks highlight vulnerability of Florida schools to cyber crooks

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@KyraGurney

Two months before the U.S. presidential election, international hackers slipped into the computer systems of at least four Florida school district networks in the hopes of stealing the personal data of hundreds of thousands of students.

They infected the systems with malware — malicious software — that turned off the logs recording who accessed the systems, according to United Data Technologies, the Doral-based cybersecurity company that investigated the incidents. For three months, the hackers probed the systems, mapping them out and testing their defenses. At one point, they even posted photos of someone dressed as an ISIS fighter on two school district websites.

They weren’t just looking for the names of kids and valuable Social Security numbers, UDT found. The hackers were also searching for some way to slip into other sensitive government systems, including state voting systems.

Luckily, the hackers from Morocco, not Moscow — never found one or managed to get their hands on personal data. But the attempted hacking exposed the vulnerabilities of Florida’s school district networks: vast computer systems that store sensitive information on thousands of students, and their parents, and could potentially provide a backdoor into other government systems. Amid the national obsession with the alleged Russian hacking during the U.S. election and the constant stream of headlines on corporate data breaches, like the ones at Target and Chipotle, experts say the dangers of cyber attacks targeting school districts are being overlooked.

To read the rest, click here

June 06, 2017

Trump encouraged Russian hacking during Doral speech less than a year ago

TRUMP0728 PRESS1 CTJ

@alextdaugherty 

Over the weekend, the FBI arrested a suspected leaker for turning over classified documents that outlined the extent of Russian hacking efforts on voting systems, including an attempted hack on Florida officials, during the 2016 election. 

But less than 12 months ago President Donald Trump encouraged the Russians to hack into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's emails during a press conference at his golf resort in Doral.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said to a room full of TV cameras at Trump National Doral in July 2016. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Since assuming the presidency, Trump has railed against "leakers" who provide anonymous information to news media outlets, arguing they undermine his ability to lead, after repeatedly promoting information from WikiLeaks during the campaign that was obtained through leaks.  

During a rollicking hour of back-and-forth round of questioning from the press in Doral, Trump flippantly promoted the idea of Russian involvement in Clinton's email server. 

“They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there,” he said. “So let's see.”

Trump surrogates characterized his comments as a joke after the speech. 

Jason Miller, Trump's communications adviser at the time, said Trump was not calling for Russia to hack Clinton but to hand over emails to the FBI if they had them.

“To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails today,” Miller said on Twitter. “Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them.”

But in order for Russia to have the emails, the government would have likely needed to engage in hacking if Clinton declined to hand them over on her own free will. 

The arrest of Reality Winner, a 25-year-old intelligence contractor, is the first leak case that led to an arrest under President Trump. The FBI said Monday that Winner had contact with a news outlet and the FBI announced Winner's arrest, which occurred last weekend, about an hour after national security website The Intercept published a story based on classified documents. The documents, which were partially redacted, outlined the ways in which Russian hackers attempted to obtain voting information using emails. 

A Herald/Times story from September 2016 said the FBI was investigating a "malicious act" against election supervisors throughout Florida. There is currently no evidence that Russian hacking efforts altered votes in the 2016 election. 

Barack Obama brought nine or 10 leak-related prosecutions during his eight years in office, about twice as many that were brought under every previous presidency. 

 

Detzner's office says there is no sign of hacking in Florida's voting systems

Voting in Miami David Santiago elneuvoheraldFlorida’s online elections databases and voting systems remained secure in 2016, a spokesperson for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Tuesday, despite what appears to be confirmation that a phishing email was sent to state elections offices  and news reports indicate that federal officials believe the Russians were behind it.

"The Florida Department of State participated in an informational call with the FBI related to elections security at the end of September 2016, said Sarah Revell, spokesperson for the agency that oversees Florida's elections system. "But there was no indication of a Florida-specific issue."

She denied there were any successful hacking attempts from the phishing emails investigated by the National Security Administration. The investigation was first reported by The Intercept, an online national security news outlet that said it obtained a copy of the NSA’s classified intelligence report, dated May 5.

"There are multiple safeguards in place to protect against elections fraud and prevent any possible hacking attempts from being successful,'' Revell said. "The Florida Voter Registration System (FVRS) database is secure and we have no indication that any unauthorized access occurred. Steps taken to secure databases include implementing software, hardware and firewalls to protect information."

In Florida, voter registration data and the software used to count votes are on two separate electronic systems, as Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel emphasized on his Facebook page.

“Important: Even if the bad guys would have accessed our local registration files (which they didn’t), those files are in no way connected to vote counting,” Ertel wrote on Facebook. “I’ve said it hundreds of times: ‘You can’t hack paper.’ Seminole County votes on trusted paper ballots.”

Revell noted that because all voting in Florida is done on paper ballots, there is an opportunity to double-check the final vote with the original record.

"The only exception in law permits voters with disabilities to vote on accessible equipment that meetings voting system accessibility requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act,'' she said. "Additionally, voting machines are not connected to the internet."

READ MORE: At least 2 Florida counties targeted by Russian hacking attempt

 

May 25, 2017

Florida Republican operative asked alleged Russian hacker for documents to hurt Democrats

From the Wall Street Journal:

The hacking spree that upended the presidential election wasn’t limited to Democratic National Committee memos and Clinton-aide emails posted on websites. The hacker also privately sent Democratic voter-turnout analyses to a Republican political operative in Florida named Aaron Nevins.

Learning that hacker “Guccifer 2.0” had tapped into a Democratic committee that helps House candidates, Mr. Nevins wrote to the hacker to say: “Feel free to send any Florida based information.”

Ten days later, Mr. Nevins received 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee documents, some of which he posted on a blog called HelloFLA.com that he ran using a pseudonym.

Soon after, the hacker sent a link to the blog article to Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, along with Mr. Nevins’ analysis of the hacked data.

Mr. Nevins confirmed his exchanges after The Wall Street Journal identified him first as the operator of the HelloFLA blog and then as the recipient of the stolen DCCC data. The Journal also reviewed copies of exchanges between the hacker and Mr. Nevins. That the obscure blog had received hacked Democratic documents was previously known, but not the extent of the trove or the blogger’s identity.

More here.

May 17, 2017

Legislature's budget includes requirement for Constitution Commission to vote on Beruff's hires

CRC Don Gaetz 51717

Members of the Constitution Revision Commission Wednesday agreed to follow a new directive from the Florida Legislature that the panel adopt a detailed budget, get approval of two-thirds of the membership for the budget, and require commission Chair Carlos Beruff to get approval before hiring employees. 

The Legislature allocated $2 million to pay expenses of the 37-member board which is expected to meet for the next year in its quest to propose constitutional amendments to the November 2018 ballot and included in the allocation proviso language that set some guidelines. 

At the recommendation of Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, appointed to the board by Senate President Joe Negron, the CRC's Rule Committee on Wednesday agreed to follow the requirements in the proviso if the budget becomes law. Beruff, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to head the commission, has hired three people to staff the commission so far -- all of whom have worked for Scott: Jeff Woodburn, executive director, William N. Spicola, general counsel, and Meredith Beatrice, director of external affairs. 

The CRC's Rules Committee is meeting today to discuss its controversial rules and after a morning discussion the fault lines are clear: the Legislature's faction is not quite on board with the governor's. 

Here's the proviso inserted into the budget by the Legislature: 

1986A  SPECIAL CATEGORIES
       CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION
        FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND  . . . . .        2,000,000

   From  the  funds in Specific Appropriation 1986A, $2,000,000 is provided
   to  fund  the Constitution Revision Commission. No other state funds may
   be  used to pay for expenses of the commission. Funds expended from this
   appropriation  for travel and per diem may not exceed the rates provided
   in  s. 112.061 F.S. The commission shall adopt a detailed budget for the
   2017-2018  fiscal  year  which must be approved by 2/3 of the members of
   the  commission.  Unless  otherwise  provided  in  rules  adopted by the
   commission, a majority of the members of the commission must approve the
   hiring of employees of the commission.

 

April 24, 2017

In new book, Kasich says he ran for president because of lack of enthusiasm about Bush

via @learyreports

John Kasich's new book contains "little digs" toward Jeb Bush, per the Cincinnati Enquirer:

They respected his money, all right, and the fact that he was theoretically competing with Kasich for people who were drawn to an establishment governor. But the book has little digs toward Bush.

On Kasich's first trip to New Hampshire, early in 2015, former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu told him: "Bush can't win here in New Hampshire."

"For whatever reason," Kasich explains, "people weren't excited about Jeb's candidacy." That helped push Kasich into the race.

When Bush dropped out, after the South Carolina primary, Kasich says: "Voters just hadn't responded to his message." It's clear Kasich views his campaign differently.

More here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 07, 2017

Curbelo may be the most endangered Republican in Congress, report suggests

IMG_Economic_Impact_of_I_2_1_8BAO5GJG_L296697696 (4)
@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo better get used to that political target on his back.

The sophomore congressman might be the single most vulnerable Republican in the country going into the 2018 election, according to a new analysis of partisanship in congressional districts.

The Cook Political Report, which has been publishing its Partisan Voting Index since 1997, found that Curbelo represents the most Democratic of districts held by Republican members of Congress.

Florida’s 26th district, which extends from Westchester to Key West, performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, Cook Report editor David Wasserman found in his report, released Friday.

“In the modern era, it takes considerable personal appeal to win a House election in a district that fundamentally favors the opposite party,” Wasserman wrote. “There are several members on both sides who have successfully run ‘against the grain.’ However, these members are also likeliest to be among the top targets for the opposite party in 2018 and beyond.”

No. 3 on the list of the 10 Republicans in the most Democratic districts is Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whose 27th district — a stretch of coastal southeastern Miami-Dade County — performed on average 5 points more Democratic at the presidential level than the rest of the country.

More here.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

March 30, 2017

Russian hackers tried to get into email of Rubio presidential campaign aides

Trump Russia Probe
@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio revealed Thursday that unknown Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to access the email accounts of some of the top aides to his 2016 presidential campaign.

Rubio acknowledged the attempted breach in Senate Intelligence Committee meeting, after an expert in Russian influence operations testified that Rubio "anecdotally suffered" from Russian efforts to discredit him during the Republican primary. A similar campaign was under way on social media over the past week against House Speaker Paul Ryan, added Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. 

Watts later said Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham were also Russian targets.

Later in the hearing, Rubio said his aides' emails were targeted by Russian IP addresses in July 2016, shortly after he announced he'd seek reelection to the Senate.

"Within the last 24 hours -- at 10:45 a.m. yesterday -- a second attempt was made again against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal campaign information," Rubio said. "That effort was also unsuccessful." 

 

Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press

March 26, 2017

Jeb Bush: Trump should 'stop saying things that aren't true'

GOP 2016 Bush(24) (1)
@PatriciaMazzei

Jeb Bush has a little unsolicited advice for President Donald Trump, his former primary rival.

"He should stop saying things that aren't true, that are distractions from the task at hand," Bush told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4 in an interview that aired Sunday on "Facing South Florida."

In his first in-depth local interview since dropping out of the presidential race more than a year ago, Bush offered a mixed assessment of Trump's first 60 or so days in office. He praised several of Trump's Cabinet secretaries, including Betsy DeVos for education, John Kelly for homeland security and Rex Tillerson for state.

"The president made some really good appointments," Bush said. "He's acted decisively on some areas I think are important, particularly on the regulatory side."

But Bush said Trump "hasn't shifted to being president in the way that people are used to, and I think that's the problem."

"He's a distraction in and of himself," Bush said. "He's got a lot of work to do, and some of these things -- the wiretapping and all of this stuff -- is a complete distraction that makes it harder to accomplish the things I know he wants to do."

Asked host Jim DeFede: Does that diminish the office of the president? "A little bit," said Bush, who said he hasn't spoken to Trump since the inauguration.

Reflecting on his failed presidential campaign, Bush said he didn't regret running but acknowledged his personality and style didn't work for the electorate.

"Reasoning, in this environment where people are angry, is hard, and I wasn't capable of giving them a sense that there is a better path," he said. "They wanted to have their anger remediated -- more than a five-point plan.... President Trump's great skill was to understand that."

Bush also said he learned "something unusual": "People customize their news to validate what they believe, and it makes them increasingly less tolerant of other people's views that rely on another set of facts," he said. "That is dangerous for our democracy."

He said his top concern for the country is restoring "some sense of what it is to be an American citizen again, and have it be a unifying theme."

While Bush wouldn't rule out another political run -- "I don't rule out anything" -- he sounded content to be a private citizen again in Coral Gables.

"I sleep at night at home more often than not, and I've got my life organized pretty nicely," he said. "My church, my gym, my golf course. My office is less than a mile from my home, and it's two stop signs away. You can't beat that, man."

Bush also shied away from handicapping the big 2018 Florida governor and U.S. Senate races, though he noted that Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has "never been knocked off as a candidate for Senate."

"You gotta assume that incumbents have a certain advantage, if they've won two or three times," Bush said. "But on the other hand,t he person who's likely to run against him is also an incumbent -- so that'll be a good race for sure."

He was referring -- without mentioning him -- to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press