Earlier this month, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) claimed that Russians had “penetrated” the Florida election system. Now the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have written a letter definitively contradicting his claims.
“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” he told the Tampa Bay Times on August 8. “We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records.”
The Florida Department of State immediately refuted Nelson’s claim, and said they had no evidence to back up Nelson’s claims. Nelson then began walking back what he said, while still claiming he hadn’t misled anyone.
“What I said last week was exactly what the letter states,” Nelson says in a video released August 15. “What that letter says is, in essence, is that it would be foolish to think if the Russians were in our election apparatus in 2016 … that they are not continuing.”
But that’s not what Nelson said originally. He said he had been told there was already a breach, a claim The Washington Post awarded “Four Pinocchios,” for being a complete lie.
In a letter sent Monday night, DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote that Florida’s election systems had not been hacked.
“Although we have not seen new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida, Russian government actors have previously demonstrated both the intent and capability to conduct malicious cyber operations,” the letter said. “DHS and the FBI will continue to notify any victim of a successful cyber intrusion into their election network in any jurisdiction nationwide.”
A threat is not a breach.
Nelson is locked in a tough re-election battle against Florida Governor Rick Scott, and is currently trailing slightly in the polls.