Written by Sean Lyngaas
Multiple Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Thursday reacted with concern to a media report that a senior Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity official has told associates that he expects to be fired by the White House.
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were among those who hailed the work of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Director Chris Krebs, who has been at the forefront of federal agencies’ efforts to protect the 2020 election from hacking and disinformation.
“It would not be a surprise [but] would disappoint me profoundly if he were to be fired,” Langevin, who is co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, said in an interview. “I think Chris Krebs has served in his role as director of CISA with great professionalism, with passion, in a nonpartisan way. He’s someone who is respected on both sides of the aisle.”
Krebs, who was appointed by the White House to a senior DHS role in 2017, has repeatedly debunked claims of electoral fraud pushed by President Donald Trump and his allies in the days since media outlets projected a Joe Biden victory over Trump.
“CISA has been one of the bright spots within government, and certainly within DHS,” Langevin said. “And I hope their work will continue and be supported by the Congress.”
Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there is “no possible justification to remove [Krebs] from office.”
Reuters reported earlier Thursday that Krebs had told associates he expected to be fired. CyberScoop could not independently confirm that reporting. CISA officials reached by CyberScoop on Thursday said they had not heard anything about Krebs expecting to be fired.
Krebs did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A CISA spokesperson declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
The election was free of any significant publicly reported cyberattacks, and outside experts credited CISA, the FBI and other federal agencies for protecting the vote. Republican and Democratic secretaries of state have also said CISA has worked in much closer coordination with states on election security compared to 2016.
A statement issued Thursday by the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, a government-industry body that includes CISA, state election officials and voting vendors, called the November election “the most secure in American history.” The statement also took aim at viral and baseless conspiracy theories: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Republican lawmakers have praised Krebs’ work on cybersecurity and election security in the past. Langevin called on them to speak up. Multiple Republican lawmakers’ offices did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
“Now is the time for many of my Republican colleagues to speak out,” Langevin said. “Now is not the time to be silent.”
While Krebs’ future is uncertain, one of his deputies, Bryan Ware, is leaving the agency for the private sector, as CyberScoop first reported on Thursday. As CISA’s assistant director for cybersecurity, Ware has been a key figure in the agency’s efforts to protect the health care sector from hacking during the pandemic. Ware declined to comment when asked if he had been asked to resign by the White House, as some outlets have reported.