President Donald Trump sacked Chris Krebs, who headed the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Tuesday evening, days after the agency, responsible for protecting elections, called the election presidential of 2020 from America’s Safest. history.”
Trump did it because the agency – and the Krebs staff – defending the integrity of the elections destroys Trump’s baseless claim that the election was stolen from him.
The CISA statement refuted many of the conspiracy theories that Trump used to claim there was some sort of wrongdoing, and said, in part, “Although we know there are many unsubstantiated allegations. and opportunities for misinformation about our election process, we can assure you. we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and so should you.
Trump tweeted Krebs off Tuesday night, mistakenly calling the statement “very inaccurate” and claiming that because of this “with immediate effect” Krebs “has been terminated” as a director of CISA.
… votes from Trump to Biden, late votes and many more. Therefore, with immediate effect, Chris Krebs was fired as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2020
This news is not so surprising; Krebs would have told people for some time he expected to be fired after the election, in large part because of his efforts to correct false claims about electoral vulnerabilities and postal vote had long put him on the wrong side of the White House.
Krebs, who ran the agency that Trump himself signed in 2018, had garnered substantial bipartisan support for his efforts to consolidate and strengthen the US electoral infrastructure and to defend against foreign interference.
In 2020, CISA set up a 24/7 service “crisis unit” that election officials could contact to report any suspicious activity in real time, and that CISA officials were ready to be deployed to polling stations, if necessary, according to the Washington Post. CISA streamlined coordination between states and the federal government on electoral security issues, and strengthened its public communication before and after the elections on potential threats, including the establishment of a “Rumor control” Web page to demystify election misinformation.
Of course, countering election lies is infinitely more difficult when the president and his allies are the primary sources of this disinformation. This presidential disinformation campaign – in particular, the lie that a voting system used by some states turned Trump’s votes into votes for President-elect Joe Biden – resulted in a statement by the CISA and election officials in the United States that said in a bold statement last week: “There is no evidence that a voting system suppressed or lost votes, altered votes or was compromised in any way.
The fact that Krebs also attempted to counter disinformation on social media from his official account likely angered the president further. In a tweet Tuesday, Krebs said, in response to allegations that voting machines and software had been tampered with, that dozens of election experts said that “in all cases known to us, these claims are either unfounded or technically inconsistent. . ”
ICYMI: Regarding the allegations that electoral systems were tampered with, 59 electoral security experts all agree, “in all cases known to us, these claims are either unfounded or technically inconsistent.” # Protect2020 https://t.co/Oj6NciYruD
– Chris Krebs # Protect2020 (@CISAKrebs) November 17, 2020
After his dismissal, Krebs posted on his personal account: “Honored to serve. We did it well. Defend today, secure tomorrow. “
Democratic lawmakers swiftly condemned Krebs’ sacking
Krebs’ sacking drew condemnation from lawmakers, mostly Democrats on Capitol Hill. “Chris Krebs is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want to protect the security of our elections,” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), deputy chairman of the Special Senate Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement . “The fact that the president chose to fire him just for telling the truth speaks volumes.”
“Whenever people at CT worried about the integrity of the 2020 election, I would tell them that somehow Trump had left in place, perhaps by accident, genuine non-partisan professionals in charge of electoral security. I was talking about Chris Krebs ”, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted.
Republicans, who took a long time to refute Trump’s claims, and often actively try to help, were a little more discreet in their response. One of the few to offer Krebs support was Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), who said that in a statement that “Chris Krebs has done a very good job – as state election officials across the country will tell you – and he obviously shouldn’t be fired.”
Election officials in 2020 faced extraordinary challenges: the potential repeat of foreign interference and a pandemic that has forced election officials from states and local authorities to implement public health precautions and expand options. such as mail and advance voting. But despite all these challenges, the vote was, as a senior Electoral Assistance Commission official put it, “one of the most harmonious and organized elections we have ever seen”.
But Trump’s refusal to accept the 2020 election result diminishes those successes while undermining the integrity of the November election – and democracy as a whole, which will be even more difficult to repair after Trump leaves.