November 19, 2020
President Donald Trump fired his administration’s most senior cybersecurity official—responsible for securing the presidential election—on Tuesday night, November 17, in the latest of a recent string of ousters via Tweet.
According to a report by The New York Times, in recent days, Christopher Krebs—director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security since November 2018—had systematically disputed Trump’s false declarations that the presidency was stolen from him through fraudulent ballots and software glitches that changed millions of votes.
Indeed, the news outlet said, the president “seemed set off by a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security late last week, the product of a broad committee overseeing the elections, that declared the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”
“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate,” Trump wrote a little after 7 p.m. on his Twitter feed, “in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” He said Krebs “has been terminated” as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a post to which. Trump himself had appointed him.
Krebs, 43, a former Microsoft executive, has been hailed in recent days for his two years spent preparing the states for the challenges of the vote, hardening systems against Russian interference and setting up a “rumor control” website to guard against disinformation. The foreign interference so many feared never materialized; instead, the disinformation ultimately came from the White House.
The firing stirred an immediate backlash in the national security community and on Capitol Hill.
“Of all the things this president has done, this is the worst,” said Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine, who led a commission on improving cyberdefenses. “To strike at the heart of the democratic system is beyond anything we have seen from any politician.”
Senator Richard M. Burr (R-North Carolina) issued a statement calling Krebs “a dedicated public servant who has done a remarkable job during a challenging time.”
“I’m grateful for all Chris has done,” Burr said.
Only two weeks ago, the Times notes, on Election Day, Krebs’s boss, Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, had praised Krebs’s work, including the “rumor control” effort. But behind-the-scenes efforts by some administration officials to keep Trump from firing Krebs apparently failed.
Research contact: @nytimes