National: Senate intel committee investigating Jill Stein campaign for possible collusion with the Russians | The Washington Post

The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking at the presidential campaign of the Green Party’s Jill Stein for potential “collusion with the Russians,” a sign that the panel’s probe is far from over, even as allegations swirl that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is racing to a close. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told reporters Monday that the Senate Intelligence Committee has “two other campaigns that we’re just starting on,” in addition to the panel’s ongoing probe of alleged ties between the Trump administration and Kremlin officials. One of those he identified as Stein’s; Burr has indicated previously that the committee is also looking into reports that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for research that went into a dossier detailing allegations of Donald Trump’s 2013 exploits in Moscow.

National: Senators to introduce bipartisan bill to prevent foreign cyber interference in elections | CBS

A bipartisan group of senators are introducing a bill early next week to improve and streamline information about cyber threats between state and federal entities, in the wake of Russia’s believed interference during the 2016 election, according to a top aide to one of the senators involved. The bill, spearheaded by Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, and also sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, is intended to better the communication between the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community and state election offices, in efforts to thwart future interference in U.S. elections by foreign actors. The bill, which will include resources for states, is also intended to help states identify and prepare against cyber attacks.

National: Homeland Security, private sector launch election security group | The Hill

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Election Assistance Commission and a bevy of voting equipment industry and nonprofit groups met to launch an election security Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) on Thursday. The meeting further solidifies their decision last year to treat elections as critical infrastructure. The SCC will represent the private sector as Homeland Security deliberates strategies and policies to protect critical infrastructure. “No one entity — whether private or public — can manage the risk to our critical election infrastructure on its own,” said David Wulf, acting deputy assistant secretary for the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection in a statement announcing the election SCC.

National: ACLU Adds Data Security Concerns To Lawsuit Challenging Kobach Fraud Commission | KMUW

A federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union questions the security of a multistate voter registration database championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The ACLU this week added concerns about personal privacy and data security to its list of complaints against President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission. The national organization also claims that the commission violated sunshine laws on public meetings and public documents. Kobach is vice chairman of the commission, which has sought individual-level voter registration records from all 50 states, though some states refused to hand them over. The ACLU lawsuit cites concerns that the data-gathering effort would become a target for hackers, and by way of example points to indications that Kansas’ multistate Crosscheck voter registration system may not be secure.

National: Trump’s fraud panel has gone dark. Members don’t know why. | NBC

No one seems to know what’s going on lately with President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission — not even its own members. “I have not heard anything since the New Hampshire meeting,” New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner told NBC News, referring to the commission’s Sept. 12 gathering, the panel’s most recent. Alan King, another Democrat serving on the commission, said he can’t even get his emails answered. “It’s my understanding that this commission is supposed to submit its recommendations in March 2018,” said King, the chief election official in Jefferson County, Alabama, adding that he was frustrated by the non-response. “I’m wondering when you take a two-and-half-month hiatus from meeting…I obviously think anyone would have concerns how a deadline like that is supposed to be met.”

National: Trump-Russia: Republicans trying to kill off investigation, says Adam Schiff | The Guardian

The senior Democrat in a congressional Trump-Russia investigation has said he fears Republicans are manoeuvring to kill off inquiries into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election. “I’m increasingly worried Republicans will shut down the House intelligence committee investigation at the end of the month,” said Adam Schiff, who is the leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee. Schiff suggested Republicans also had their sights on the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller. The president’s personal lawyers are reportedly set to meet Mueller and his team within days to ask about the next steps in his investigation.

National: Senator presses White House to improve election cyber protections | FCW

On the day that a special election in Alabama captured national attention, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter urging National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to take additional steps to secure the nation’s election infrastructure and provide support to state and local governments ahead of next year’s mid-term elections. Specifically, Wyden asked McMaster to designate a senior White House election security czar to brief Congress of executive branch election security efforts, direct the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security to grade states on their election infrastructure and designate political campaigns as critical infrastructure. Wyden, who has been one of Congress’ most vocal advocates of increased election security, also is asking that the U.S. Secret Service expand its presidential candidate security detail to include cybersecurity. In the Dec. 12 letter, Wyden noted that 14 states still use direct-recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines that don’t allow for paper-based election audits and rely on outdated operating systems with known vulnerabilities.

National: GOP bill would scrap voter registration requirements for colleges | The Hill

House Republicans are pushing a higher education bill that scraps requirements for colleges and universities to alert students to register to vote. As part of legislation rewriting the laws governing colleges and universities, Republicans left out provisions added in 1998 and 2008 to ensure that schools make a good-faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to students enrolled at their institutions. The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved the bill late Tuesday in a 23-17 party-line vote that largely went under the radar. It would nix language requiring that schools request voter registration forms from their state at least 120 days before the voter registration deadline, and send students an “electronic communication” exclusively about voter registration.

National: New EAC tool offers unprecedented access to U.S. election data | GCN

Every two years after a November mid-term or presidential election, the Election Assistance Commission surveys states about their election practices, compiles that data and submits a report to Congress.  The 226-page 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey includes data on voter registration, turnout, absentee and pre-election voting, precinct and polling places and military and overseas voting. While the report contains charts and downloadable datasets, the EAC recognized that election officials at the county and municipal level might need help manipulating the data for their own analysis.  On Dec. 13, EAC released the EAVS Data Interactive, a new data visualization tool that lets election officials, academics, activists and others examine specific data at the state and local level, as well as compare jurisdictions side by side.

National: Senate Russia Probe May Not Have More Open Hearings, Burr Says | Bloomberg

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr said he doesn’t currently see a need for more public hearings in his panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election, but added that he still won’t be able to meet an original goal of wrapping up this year. “I’m running out of days, aren’t I,” the North Carolina Republican told reporters Tuesday. Burr said they still have dozens of witnesses to interview behind closed doors. He said he hopes to finish the probe “pretty quickly” next year unless additional information surfaces, but the committee may first issue recommendations on election security while it wraps up the broader investigation.

National: US Officials, Lawmakers Warn More Cyberattacks Coming | VoA News

The United States is bracing for another wave of cyberattacks focused on disrupting or undermining the 2018 midterm elections, with some officials warning this is just the beginning of a much deeper and broader threat. Intelligence and security officials, as well as policymakers and other experts talking both on the record and on background say what began with a Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election has evolved. They expect the next round of Russian efforts to be more sophisticated and more widespread, likely to include a combination of disinformation campaigns on social media along with the potential hacking of vulnerable targets.

National: Russian hacker claims he hacked the DNC during the 2016 election ‘under the orders’ of the FSB | IBT

A Russian hacker has reportedly confessed that Russia’s state intelligence agency ordered him to hack the Democratic National Committee’s servers during the 2016 US presidential election. The hacker, Konstantin Kozlovsky, reportedly testified in court to carrying out the attacks at the request of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), considered to be the successor of the Soviet security agency the KGB. During the election campaign, hackers stole thousands of private DNC emails that were later steadily leaked by WikiLeaks in the months leading up to the November election, drawing heavy scrutiny and media attention. US intelligence agencies concluded earlier this year that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a complex influence campaign to help sway the election in Donald Trump’s favour using leaks, cyberattacks, a disinformation campaign and more. Putin has vehemently denied any involvement in the DNC hack or influencing the electoral process of another nation.

National: Ex-Spy Chief: Russia’s Election Hacking Was An ‘Intelligence Failure’ | Poitico

The politics of spying in America has never been more intense. President Trump has taken to publicly bashing his intelligence agencies and continues, a full year later, to question their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. election on his behalf. For their part, an array of career spooks have come out of the shadows where they spent their careers to challenge the commander-in-chief in once unthinkably public terms. Michael Morell is one of the career types who’s broken with decades of practice to confront Trump. A veteran of nearly three decades in the CIA, Morell rose from within the ranks to become the agency’s longtime deputy director, twice serving as its acting leader before retiring during President Barack Obama’s second term. In the summer of 2016, he broke with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Trump, and he has continued to sound the alarm ever since.

National: With 2020 Census Looming, Worries About Fairness and Accuracy | The New York Times

Census experts and public officials are expressing growing concerns that the bedrock mission of the 2020 census — an accurate and trustworthy head count of everyone in the United States — is imperiled, with worrisome implications. Preparations for the count already are complicated by a sea change in the census itself: For the first time, it will be conducted largely online instead of by mail. But as the Census Bureau ramps up its spending and work force for the 2020 count, it is saddled with problems. Its two top administrative posts are filled by placeholders. Years of underfunding by Congress and cost overruns on the digital transition have forced the agency to pare back its preparations, including abandoning two of the three trial runs of the overhauled census process.

National: Senate Intel chair doesn’t plan legislative push on election cyber | FCW

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) hinted that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election will be light on legislative proposals for Congress and focus more on recommendations to state and local governments about how best to protect the integrity of their election systems. “The determination of how states run their elections: states. It’s their responsibility, and we don’t want to do anything to change that,” Burr said during a Dec. 6 Council on Foreign Relations event on hacked elections and online influence operations. While Burr did not give a timeline on when — or if — the final report will be released to the public, he said he expects the committee will make the section on election security available to states before the 2018 election primary season kicks off in earnest. However, he downplayed expectations that the end product would contain recommendations for Congress. “These are not necessarily initiatives that involve federal legislation,” Burr said.

National: Trump’s fraud commission plans to create a massive voter database. Former national security officials say it could be hacked. | The Washington Post

More than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging a federal court to halt the collection of voter information for a planned government database. Former national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr., one of the co-signatories of the brief, warned that a White House plan to create a centralized database containing sensitive information on millions of American voters will become an attractive target for nation states and criminal hackers. This summer, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a sweeping request to state officials to submit voter data to “analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.” The commission, which is chaired by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), was established after President Trump claimed that he would have won the popular vote if not for as many as 5 million illegally cast ballots. State officials haven’t found any indication that there was widespread voter fraud.

National: States raise security concerns about Crosscheck voter database during call with Kobach’s office | Lawrence Journal World

Officials from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office conducted a conference call Thursday with election officials from several other states to discuss concerns about the Crosscheck program, a multistate database of voter registration information that Kansas manages and that some critics have said is not secure. Bryan Caskey, director of elections in the secretary of state’s office, confirmed Thursday that the conference call took place, but he said the issue of security concerns only came up “at a very high level.” “I would describe it as more of a kickoff conference call that we do at the start of every election year,” Caskey said. The Crosscheck database was originally launched in the early 2000s when Ron Thornburgh served as secretary of state.

National: Apparent White House pick to lead census sparks concern about partisanship | The Washington Post

This week the Population Association of America and the Association of Population Research Centers, whose members include over 3,000 scientists and over 40 federally-funded organizations, sounded an alarm bell about one of their most sacred cows: the United States Census Bureau. Reports had surfaced saying the White House planned to install as the bureau’s deputy director Thomas Brunell, a political science professor with scant managerial experience who is best known for his testimony as an expert witness on behalf of Republican redistricting plans and a book that argues against competitive electoral districts. News of the appointment, which sources close to the bureau say is imminent, sparked handwringing among statisticians, former bureau directors, and civil rights leaders.

National: Donald Trump Jr back to Congress to face questioning on Russia links | The Guardian

Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, returned to Congress on Wednesday to face questions from lawmakers about alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US election and possible collusion with Moscow by his father’s presidential campaign. Trump arrived shortly before 10am for what was expected to be several hours of questioning by members of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, one of three main congressional committees investigating the matter. The session was conducted behind closed doors, and Trump Jr was not seen by reporters waiting outside the meeting room, although congressional officials confirmed he had arrived.

National: House Urging States to Secure Voting Infrastructures Before 2018 Elections | MeriTalk

With the midterm elections of 2018 fewer than 12 months away, Congress is showing heightened concern over the potential for disastrous cyber attacks on the nation’s electronic voting systems. “Like anything else in the digital age, electronic voting is vulnerable to hacking,” said Will Hurd, R-Texas, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Information Technology. “Our voting machines are no exception.” Hurd, in opening remarks at a Nov. 29 joint hearing with the House Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs on the cybersecurity of voting machines, said subcommittee members wanted to explore what impact the Department of Homeland Security designation last January of U.S. election systems as “critical infrastructure” has had on states. “It is essential that states take appropriate steps to secure their voting infrastructure,” he said.

National: Lawyers for Trump election commission respond to lawsuit | Union Leader

Attorneys for President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud maintain that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has no legal right to commission-related documents he is seeking through a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Commission attorneys responded on Friday to a lawsuit filed by Dunlap, aimed at finding out what’s been going on with the commission in the months since its September meeting at St. Anselm College. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, also a member of the commission, says he hasn’t heard a word from Chairman Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, or any commission staff since the meeting, even though state officials have reached out in an attempt to submit the requested voter data.

National: Democrats question GOP commitment to Senate’s Russia inquiry | Politico

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are raising fresh concerns about the GOP-led panel’s appetite for digging into the Russian ties forged by multiple advisers to President Donald Trump. Friction on the committee last spiked in October, when the chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), sent a slew of letters to key figures in the Russia investigation without the signature of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the panel’s top Democrat. Feinstein has followed by sending four rounds of letters without Grassley’s signature that seek material from other players in the Trump campaign’s communications with Russian officials — the most recent series of letters coming on Monday. Asked about Grassley’s decision to not sign on, Feinstein told reporters late Monday that “I think there’s an effort, subtle, not to go deeply. And I hadn’t realized it before, but I realize it now,” she continued. “And we’re going to have to find a way to deal with it.”

National: Deutsche Bank Received Subpoena on Client Trump | Bloomberg

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on President Donald Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. Mueller has issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender, forcing the bank to submit documents on its client relationship with Trump and his family, said a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced. “Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries,” the lender said in a statement to Bloomberg, declining to provide additional information.

National: Trump transition official wrote in email: Russia ‘has just thrown the USA election to him’ | The Independent

Russia threw the US election to Donald Trump, a top official in his transition team reportedly said in an email. Emails between top Trump transition officials suggested Michael Flynn was in close contact with other senior members of the transition team before and after he spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, The New York Times reported. An email from K T McFarland, a transition adviser to Mr Trump, sent on 29 December, suggested Russian sanctions announced by the Obama administration had been aimed at discrediting Mr Trump’s victory. In emails obtained by the Times, she said the sanctions could also make it more difficult for Mr Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the USA election to him.”

National: Experts: States need help to protect voting machines from Russians | USA Today

Congress needs to boost funding to states to help them buy secure voting machines to prevent Russia and other hostile nations from hacking U.S. elections, election experts told a House panel Wednesday. “This is a critical need, and must be addressed immediately (to have an impact on the 2018 election),” said Edgardo Cortés, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, which held statewide elections earlier this month. Experts also recommended that states stop using touchscreen voting machines and replace them with paper-based systems such as optical scanners that tabulate paper ballots and provide tangible evidence of election results. “In many electronic voting systems in use today, a successful attack that exploits a software flaw might leave behind little or no forensic evidence,” warned Matthew Blaze, an associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania. “This can make it effectively impossible to determine the true outcome of an election or even that a compromise has occurred.”

National: Are states prepared to protect the next election from hackers? | GCN

A Nov. 29 House hearing on the cybersecurity of voting infrastructure highlighted warnings about some machines used to cast votes and the software used to tally them, but officials were positive about the progress being made and the low likelihood that an attack could actually switch any votes. Several experts who testified at the hearing, held by the House Oversight Committee’s subcommittees on information technology and intergovernmental affairs, recommended that states should begin switching — if they haven’t already — away from direct-recording electronic voting machines. Matt Blaze, a computer science professor at University of Pennsylvania, said the complexity of DRE machines makes them very hard to secure. The vote tallies stored in internal memory, ballot definition parameters displayed to voters and electronic log files used for post-election audit are all subject to alteration.

National: The time to hack-proof the 2018 election is expiring — and Congress is way behind | Politico

Lawmakers are scrambling to push something — anything — through Congress that would help secure the nation’s voting systems ahead of the 2018 elections. But it might already be too late for some critical targets. By this point during the 2016 election cycle, Russian hackers had already been in the Democratic National Committee’s networks for at least three months. Members of both parties insist they can get something done before Election Day 2018, but concede that the window is rapidly closing. Voters in Texas and Illinois will take to the polls in the country’s first primaries in just over three months — a narrow timeline for implementing software patches, let alone finding the funds to overhaul creaky IT systems, swap out aging voting machines or implement state-of-the-art digital audits. “Not a lot of time, no question,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is leading an investigation of Russia’s election-year meddling, told POLITICO.

National: Court Order Barring RNC From Voter Intimidation Set to Expire Friday | Bloomberg

A 35-year-old federal court order prohibiting the Republican National Committee from engaging in voter verification and other “ballot security” measures is set to expire Friday, something the GOP says is long overdue but voting rights advocates argue is still needed to prevent intimidation at the polls. Lawyers for the Republican National Committee said in court filings that the organization has been in compliance for years, even going beyond what is outlined in the consent decree. It opts against participating in poll-watching activities, for example, even though they are allowed under the order. “The RNC has worked hard to comply with its obligations under the Consent Decree,” lawyers wrote in documents filed with the court.

National: Trump Pressed Top Republicans to End Senate Russia Inquiry | The New York Times

President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end. “It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’” Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”

National: Senate GOP campaign arm stole donor data from House Republicans | Politico

Staffers for Senate Republicans’ campaign arm seized information on more than 200,000 donors from the House GOP campaign committee over several months this year by breaking into its computer system, three sources with knowledge of the breach told POLITICO. The unauthorized raid on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s data created a behind-the-scenes rift with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to the sources, who described NRCC officials as furious. It comes at a time when House Republicans are focused on preparing to defend their 24-seat majority in the 2018 midterm elections. And it has spotlighted Senate Republicans’ deep fundraising struggles this year, with the NRSC spending more than it raised for four months in a row. Multiple NRSC staffers, who previously worked for the NRCC, used old database login information to gain access to House Republicans’ donor lists this year.