U.S. Sen. Angus King is warning that not enough has been done to secure electoral systems across the country from cyberattacks by Russia or other foreign adversaries, and he says President Trump has been making the situation worse by dismissing the threat rather than marshaling a coordinated federal response. “This is such a major threat, and it takes presidential leadership to coordinate an all-of-government response,” said King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and beyond. “The CIA, the director of national intelligence, the secretaries of state – these are all pieces, and it takes executive leadership to pull the pieces together and do it. He hasn’t done that.”
In a wide-ranging conversation with the Portland Press Herald, King also discussed the improving prospects for gun control legislation, the narrow failure of a bipartisan immigration reform bill brokered by Sen. Susan Collins, and the state of the ongoing Russia investigation on Capitol Hill. He also described why he remains an independent, even as he caucuses and generally votes with his Democratic Senate colleagues.
But his most pressing concern was with what he sees as the failure of the Trump administration, state election officials and congressional appropriators to give the cyberthreat to election systems the priority it deserves. He said he has probably sat through 20 hearings where “everybody says that cyber is going to be the next Pearl Harbor” and yet Washington still lacks a coordinated response.
“This is the longest windup for a punch in world history, and yet we’re not fully prepared,” he said in the interview last week.