National: Russia steps up spying efforts after election | CNN

Russian spies are ramping up their intelligence-gathering efforts in the US, according to current and former US intelligence officials who say they have noticed an increase since the election. The officials say they believe one of the biggest US adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations. “Russians have maintained an aggressive collection posture in the US, and their success in election meddling has not deterred them,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with Trump administration efforts.
Russians could also be seeking more information on Trump’s administration, which is new and still unpredictable to Moscow, according to Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of operations.

National: Ex-intel chief: ‘No evidence whatsoever’ anyone but Russia interfered in election | The Hill

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday that he saw no evidence that anyone besides Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite President Trump’s comments. “As far as others doing this, well that’s new to me,” Clapper, who served under former President Barack Obama, said during an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “We saw no evidence whatsoever that [there] was anyone involved in this other than the Russians,” he said.  Clapper’s comments draw a contrast from Trump, who declined earlier Thursday to single out Russia for interference in the 2016 White House race. Trump asserted in Poland that other countries besides Russia likely meddled in the U.S. election and that “nobody really knows.”

National: Supreme Court’s big gerrymandering decision | The Sacramento Bee

Now that the 2017-18 U.S. Supreme Court term has sputtered to a stop, let’s reflect on the justices’ most important decision of the year. It’s not a case in which the court issued an opinion, but rather one in which it has merely agreed to hear arguments. The most consequential decision the court made this last term was to hear arguments in a case involving the drawing of legislative district lines. Please don’t yawn. This process of drawing district lines, called redistricting, dictates who our state and federal representatives will be. Decisions regarding how we draw district lines implicate every important policy issue, from health care and immigration, to the environment and criminal justice. Because of partisan gerrymandering, many Americans don’t chose their lawmakers. Their lawmakers chose them.

National: Voter Data Request Is Illegal, Not Just Controversial | The Regulatory Review

Recently, the newly created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter to all fifty states asking them to submit extensive information about registered voters. The letter has created an uproar among state officials, and many have announced their intention to refuse the request. President Donald Trump has tweeted his disapproval of these state refusals. Overlooked in the controversy has been the rather obvious conclusion that, because the Commission on Election Integrity appears to have ignored the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), its request is simply illegal.

National: Why almost every state is partially or fully rebuffing Trump’s election commission | The Washington Post

Officials in nearly every state say they cannot or will not turn over all of the voter data President Trump’s voting commission is seeking, dealing what could be a serious blow to Trump’s attempts to bolster his claims that widespread fraud cost him the popular vote in November. The commission’s request for a massive amount of state-level data last week included asking for all publicly available information about voter rolls in the states, such as names of all registrants, addresses, dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers and other data. It immediately encountered criticism and opposition, with some saying it could lead to an invasion of privacy and others worrying about voter suppression. The states that won’t provide all of their voter data grew to a group of at least 44 by Wednesday, including some, such as California and Virginia, that said they would provide nothing to the commission. Others said they are hindered by state laws governing what voter information can be made public but will provide what they can.

National: Justice Department Request For State Voter Information Follows Similar Kobach Query | KCUR

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice are asking states including Kansas for information related to the National Voter Registration Act — a move made the same day that the president’s commission on voter fraud sent a request for “publicly available voter roll data.” In a letter sent June 28, Justice Department officials requested data on how states purge registrations of people who have died or moved. The letter seeks information to confirm that states are complying with federal law and keeping voting lists updated. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on the same day sent requests for voter registration information to all states in his role as vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud. Numerous states have said they will not provide some or all of the information that Kobach requested.

National: This DOJ Letter May Be More Alarming Than Trump Commission’s Request For Voter Data | HuffPost

Former Department of Justice officials and voting advocates are seriously alarmed over a DOJ letter sent to states last week that they say could signal a forthcoming effort to kick people off voter rolls. This comes as national attention focuses on several states blocking a request for voter information from President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate voting fraud, which does occur, but is not a widespread problem. The DOJ sent the letter to 44 states last Wednesday, the same day the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter controversially requesting personal voter information. The DOJ letter requests that election officials respond by detailing their compliance with a section of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which covers 44 states and was enacted to help people register to vote, but also specifies when voters may be kicked off the rolls.  Several experts said it’s difficult not to see the DOJ letter in connection with the commission’s letter as part of a multipronged effort to restrict voting rights. 

National: ‘Worse Than What I Thought’: Voting Experts Balk At Trump Panel’s Latest Moves | TPM

From the outset, voting rights advocates warned that President Trump’s creation of a shady “elections integrity”commission would be used as cover for his bogus claims that 3-5 million people voted illegally and exacerbate overblown allegations for voter fraud.Trump himself removed any remaining doubt about the commission’s true purpose over the July 4 holiday weekend when he called it the “VOTER FRAUD PANEL.” … “It’s even worse than what I thought it would be in terms of commission’s composition and the job it’s going to do,” Rick Hasen, the UC-Irvine Law School professor who runs “Election Law blog,” told TPM Friday. “It really seems like they’re not even trying to give the veneer of bipartisanship or a serious effort.”

National: Investigators explore if Russia colluded with pro-Trump sites during US election | The Guardian

The spread of Russian-made fake news stories aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton on social media is emerging as an important line of inquiry in multiple investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Investigators are looking into whether Trump supporters and far-right websites coordinated with Moscow over the release of fake news, including stories implicating Clinton in murder or paedophilia, or paid to boost those stories on Facebook. The head of the Trump digital camp, Brad Parscale, has reportedly been summoned to appear before the House intelligence committee looking into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee carrying out a parallel inquiry, has said that at least 1,000 “paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia” were pumping anti-Clinton fake news into social media sites during the campaign.

National: Mueller investigation into U.S. election meddling could draw focus to Russian organized crime | Associated Press

The U.S. government has long warned that Russian organized crime posed a threat to democratic institutions, including “criminally linked oligarchs” who might collude with the Russian government to undermine business competition. Those concerns, ever-present if not necessarily top priorities, are front and centre once more. An ongoing special counsel investigation is drawing attention to Russian efforts to meddle in democratic processes, the type of skulduggery that in the past has relied on hired hackers and outside criminals. It’s not clear how much the probe by former FBI Director Robert Mueller will centre on the criminal underbelly of Moscow, but he’s already picked some lawyers with experience fighting organized crime. And as the team looks for any financial entanglements of Trump associates and relationships with Russian officials, its focus could land again on the intertwining of Russia’s criminal operatives and its intelligence services.

National: Democrats: Did Americans help Russia hack the election? | Politico

The cascade of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election includes a darker undercurrent from some senior Democrats: What if Moscow had American help? Hillary Clinton, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have all stoked speculation that American insiders may have helped the Russians orchestrate their wide-ranging hacking and disinformation campaign — including with guidance on which political targets to exploit and what kinds of leaked information would most resonate with swing voters. The Democrats got backup from former FBI Director James Comey, who told lawmakers in June he was sure law enforcement would work to determine “if any Americans were part of helping the Russians.” But so far, no public evidence has surfaced that any Americans coordinated with Moscow’s digital army in selecting targets for hacking, strategically deploying the purloined documents for maximum political impact — a point echoed by research firms investigating the election-year hacks.

National: Administration: Lawsuit could stop voter-fraud commission in its infancy | USA Today

The Trump administration told a federal judge Wednesday that a legal challenge to an advisory commission’s request for sensitive data on voters from all 50 states could prevent the panel from investigating alleged voter fraud. Even as most states refuse to provide at least some of the data sought by the panel — including voters’ political affiliations and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers — the Justice Department argued that it is seeking only publicly available information. The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the request as an invasion of privacy. Not so, the government responded.

National: Trump voter-fraud panel’s data request a gold mine for hackers, experts warn | Politico

Cybersecurity specialists are warning that President Donald Trump’s voter-fraud commission may unintentionally expose voter data to even more hacking and digital manipulation. Their concerns stem from a letter the commission sent to every state this week, asking for full voter rolls and vowing to make the information “available to the public.” The requested information includes full names, addresses, birth dates, political party and, most notably, the last four digits of Social Security numbers. The commission is also seeking data such as voter history, felony convictions and military service records. Digital security experts say the commission’s request would centralize and lay bare a valuable cache of information that cyber criminals could use for identity theft scams — or that foreign spies could leverage for disinformation schemes. “It is beyond stupid,” said Nicholas Weaver, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

National: Forty-four states have refused to give certain voter information to fraud commission | CNN

Forty-one states have defied the Trump administration’s request for private voter information, according to a CNN inquiry to all 50 states. State leaders and voting boards across the country have responded to the letter with varying degrees of cooperation — from altogether rejecting the request to expressing eagerness to supply information that is public. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which President Donald Trump created by executive order in May, sent a letter to all 50 states last Wednesday requesting a bevy of voter data, which he notes will eventually be made available to the public.

National: More state officials refuse to turn over voter roll data | The Hill

Top officials in more than 10 states have announced they won’t turn over all voter roll data to President Trump’s commission on voter fraud. As of Friday afternoon, officials in New York, California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Virginia had said they would not turn over any of their voter data to the voter fraud commission. Other officials in Connecticut, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa said they would only turn over public information on voter rolls, but wouldn’t share private information. Wisconsin announced it would turn over public information but would charge the commission $12,500 to buy the voter roll data.

National: Who is Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity? | The Washington Post

President Trump on Thursday appointed a divisive conservative voting rights expert to spearhead the White House’s search into allegations of widespread fraud in the 2016 presidential election. The appointment of Hans von Spakovsky has reignited debate over the legitimacy of claims that include unsubstantiated accusations from Trump that “millions of people” voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. Von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, sparked legal battles over voting laws during the George W. Bush administration. Von Spakovsky, 58, will join the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, though it remains unclear what role he will take. The White House’s Thursday night announcement, which included several other administration posts, did not provide further details. The announcement did not include any biographical information about von Spakovsky, either.

National: House Republicans Want to Eliminate Election Assistance Commission | Government Executive

House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary. A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks. … Democrats introduced an amendment at the markup to save the agency, arguing that its role was more important than ever given the attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. Republicans rejected that line of thinking, noting the Homeland Security Department, and not EAC, has jurisdiction over election-related cybersecurity issues.

National: The House wants to put America’s independent election watchdog out of business | Mic

At the same moment watchdogs are calling out a new White House panel’s massive request for voters’ personal data, Congress is trying to slash funding for a small bipartisan agency that’s supposed to improve the way elections run. The notation, buried at the bottom of page 69 of the House Financial Services Appropriation Bill for spending in Fiscal Year 2018, would yank the entire $4 million budget of the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC was created in 2002 thanks to the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed “to make sweeping reforms to the nation’s voting process.” The commission’s job includes certifying the hardware and software used to conduct elections.

National: Were Voting Machines Actually Breached? DHS Would Rather Not Know | TPM

Pressure to examine voting machines used in the 2016 election grows daily as evidence builds that Russian hacking attacks were broader and deeper than previously known. And the Department of Homeland Security has a simple response: No. DHS officials from former secretary Jeh Johnson to acting Director of Cyber Division Samuel Liles may be adamant that machines were not affected, but the agency has not in fact opened up a single voting machine since November to check. Asked about the decision, a DHS official told TPM: “In a September 2016 Intelligence Assessment, DHS and our partners determined that there was no indication that adversaries were planning cyber activity that would change the outcome of the coming US election.” … Computer scientists have been critical of that decision. “They have performed computer forensics on no election equipment whatsoever,” said J. Alex Halderman, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week about the vulnerability of election systems. “That would be one of the most direct ways of establishing in the equipment whether it’s been penetrated by attackers. We have not taken every step we could.”

National: Trump’s voter-fraud commission wants to know voting history, party ID and address of every voter in the U.S. | The Washington Post

The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state. In the letter, a copy of which was made public by the Connecticut secretary of state, the commission head Kris Kobach said that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” On Wednesday, the office of Vice President Pence released a statement saying “a letter will be sent today to the 50 states and District of Columbia on behalf of the Commission requesting publicly available data from state voter rolls and feedback on how to improve election integrity.”

National: Cyber expert says GOP operative wanted to expose hacked Clinton emails | The Guardian

A former British government intelligence official has said he was approached last summer by a veteran Republican operative to help verify hacked Hillary Clinton emails offered by a mysterious and most likely Russian source. The incident, recounted by Matt Tait, who was a information security specialist for GCHQ and now runs a private internet security consultancy in the UK, may cast new light on one of the pathways the Russians used to influence the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour. Tait’s account, published on the Lawfare national security blog, demonstrates a willingness to collude with the Russians on the part of the Republican operative, Peter Smith, who had a long history of hunting down damaging material about the Clinton family on behalf of the GOP leadership. It also points towards possible collusion by Trump aides.

National: Trump Slams States for Pushing Back on Panel’s Voter-Data Demand | Bloomberg

President Donald Trump fired off a tweet Saturday aimed at the growing number of secretaries of state resisting a broad request for data by his voter-fraud commission, including officials from deep red states whose support the controversy-laden White House can ill afford to lose. “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL,” Trump tweeted of officials from more than 20 states who so far have questioned the panel’s request. “What are they trying to hide?” Indiana, home of Vice President Mike Pence, and Mississippi, a state that voted heavily for the president, are among those states. Trump’s taunt may have been meant to counter a backlash that could effectively scuttle much of the work of Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity before it begins. Officials on the panel said they planned to compare the state records to databases of undocumented immigrants and legal foreigners in order to determine if large numbers of unqualified voters are participating in U.S. elections.

National: State officials refuse to turn over voter roll data to Trump election panel | The Hill

State officials from Virginia, California and Kentucky said Thursday that they will refuse a request for voter roll data from President Trump’s commission on election integrity. Earlier Thursday, it was reported that the commission sent letters to all 50 states asking for voters’ names, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their voting history dating back to 2006. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement that he has “no intention” of fulfilling the request, defending the fairness of his state’s elections. He also blasted the commission in his statement, saying it was based on the “false notion” of widespread voter fraud in the November presidential election. “At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression,” McAuliffe stated.

National: Presidential Commission Demands Massive Amounts of State Voter Data | ProPublica

On Wednesday, all 50 states were sent letters from Kris Kobach — vice chair for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — requesting information on voter fraud, election security and copies of every state’s voter roll data. The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data, which often includes the names, ages and addresses of registered voters. The commission also asked for information beyond what is typically contained in voter registration records, including Social Security numbers and military status, if the state election databases contain it. … A number of experts, as well as at least one state official, reacted with a mix of alarm and bafflement. Some saw political motivations behind the requests, while others said making such information public would create a national voter registration list, a move that could create new election problems.

National: House Democrat seeks to restore funding to the Election Assistance Commission | The Hill

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill on Thursday to fund the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC provides services to state elections officials, including playing a role in election cybersecurity. The EAC is currently slated to be entirely defunded by the end of 2018. “In order to prevent future attacks against our democratic process, we must harden our defenses,” Quigley said in remarks launching his amendment. “Eliminating the EAC, the federal government’s only independent direct line of communication to state and local election officials, would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve election systems and provide states with the support they need to hold accurate and secure elections.”

National: House Democrats launch election security task force | Politico

House Democrats are creating an election security task force to study how the government can lock Russian hackers out of the 2018 elections, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. The task force will hold hearings, collect data on state-level election hacks, and interview election officials and cybersecurity experts. Ultimately, the group aims to turn its findings into legislation. “Unless we act, they will do this again,” Pelosi said. House Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson of Mississippi will lead the task force with Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, which oversees federal elections.

National: Russian Hackers Reportedly Discussed Getting Hillary Clinton’s Emails To Michael Flynn | Buzzfeed

Russian hackers discussed during the 2016 presidential campaign if they could obtain emails deleted by Hillary Clinton and get them to Michael Flynn, the retired general who was then a member of the Trump campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The newspaper attributed the revelation to US officials with knowledge of intelligence about the hackers’ communications. That intelligence is being reviewed by US investigators who are examining if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election, the Journal reported. The hackers hoped to get the emails to Flynn via an intermediary, the Journal reported. Around the same time, a Republican with a history of opposition research against the Clintons was working to get the emails from hackers, including some with ties to the Russian government.

National: Senate Intelligence Committee asks 21 states to publicize election hacking | The Hill

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked election officials in 21 states to make public information about Russian efforts to hack their elections systems during the 2016 elections, the panel’s top Democrat said Wednesday. The request was made in a letter sent last week “to all relevant state election officials” from Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the panel’s chairman and vice chairman, respectively, Warner revealed in his prepared remarks before a hearing on global election interference. “I do not see how Americans are made safer when they do not know which state elections systems Russia tried to hack,” Warner said.

National: Experts encourage more public awareness of Russian meddling | Associated Press

The United States will get hit again by Russian cyberattacks if the country doesn’t pay closer attention and work more closely with European allies who are also victims, international elections experts warned on Wednesday. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, experts described extensive Russian interference in European elections and encouraged more awareness among the American of how Russians are trying to undermine U.S. candidates and faith in government. One witness, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, criticized both former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump for not doing more to publicize the problem and combat it.

National: DHS Secretary Kelly: Election hacking attempts ‘way of the future’ | CNN

Attempts to hack elections will continue in the future, the secretary of Homeland Security said Wednesday — so election officials better prepare. Secretary John Kelly was speaking about the difficult balance his agency must strike — on the one hand protecting the nation from cyber intruders while on the other, respecting state and local governments’ autonomy. Kelly said at an event at the Center for a New American Security that his agency will offer to help states and localities on an entirely “voluntary basis” — but strongly encouraged officials to get help from somewhere. “I would say that if they don’t want our help, and even if they do want our help, they’d be well advised to hire some very, very, very good hired cyber guns, if you will, to help protect, because this is the way of the future,” Kelly said.