President Trump announced in a tweet Tuesday night that he was firing Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Krebs has been credited by many for securing American elections from fraud and foreign interference -- but drew Trump’s disfavor by defending the election’s integrity from Trump’s false claims. Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.
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There has been another major shakeup in the federal government tonight.
President Trump, while denying his defeat, has just fired Chris Krebs, who is the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He has been credited by many for securing the U.S. elections against domestic and foreign interference.
To help us now understand what may be behind this latest move, our Nick Schifrin is back.
So, hello again, Nick.
Remind us who Chris Krebs is and what his job was.
Yes, Judy, Krebs was a kind of election czar.
He was one of the country's top cybersecurity officials. He took the intelligence community's materials that they gathered about overseas interference and passed that on to local officials. He also ensured domestic voting equipment was secure. And he took domestic disinformation as well head on.
He received bipartisan support, Judy, as you just said, in the days after the election that he and his team succeeded at securing the election.
But, tonight, the president has tweeted this.
And I'm going to read the whole thing for you.
"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 votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency."
Judy, to be clear, the president is misleading the public, and he is misinformed about the election and what his administration did in order to secure it.
The president is referring not to a statement by Chris Krebs personally, but to a statement by not only his agency inside the Department of Homeland Security, but the National Association of State Election Directors, the Election Assistance Commission, the National Association of Secretaries of State.
Pretty much every single person involved in the election made a statement that the president is criticizing. And I should also add to that list Cyber Command, which defended the elections from foreign interference, also said that they succeeded at protecting these elections.
And, Judy, just in the last few minutes, Chris Krebs has tweeted: "Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend today. Secure tomorrow. #Protect2020."
And we should also mention our own William Brangham reported earlier in the program.
He talked to election officials across the country, both political parties. They all said there was nothing untoward in this election; it's one of the most secure elections they have ever been involved in.
So, Nick, I mean, just — Nick, just to understand this, you have been reporting on this, and Chris Krebs was expecting that something like this might happen. Is that right?
So, late last week, he began telling officials that he would be fired, and other officials told other people, who told journalists like me that he was expecting to be fired.
And what led up to that was a site called Rumor Control. Now, this was a site born to essentially combat domestic and foreign disinformation before the election. And what Krebs and his team decided to do was use the site to refute post-election disinformation, most of which came from the president himself, as well as the president's allies, including Rudy Giuliani.
And some of Krebs' posts and tweets on that Rumor Control Web site had a little fun. He called one of the conspiracy theories that the president suggested happened during the election nonsense and used an emoji to describe it.
And after that, I was told that White House personnel targeted him, targeted all of his work, to the point that independent cybersecurity officials archived the Rumor Control site and archived his work to make sure, just in case the White House didn't pull it down.
So, the bottom line is, there is bipartisan agreement that Krebs was successful. And the 50 states that believe they were successful, that is what the president is attacking today.
So, and, again, the bottom line is, he was doing his job in keeping elections secure. And, for that, the president has fired him.
Nick Schifrin back on the program to report on this very late-breaking story.
Thank you, Nick.