The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is pushing back on a growing narrative that it turned down valuable help from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to thwart Russian hackers.
“The DNC was contacted by DHS months after the DNC worked closely with the FBI to remedy the intrusion,” said DNC spokesperson Adrienne Watson in a statement.
Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson wrote in his testimony to a House panel on Wednesday that his department was not aware of the Russian hacking campaign against the DNC until after it was made public, and well after assistance from the agency would have been useful.
“Fresh from the experience with the Office of Personnel Management, I pressed my staff to know whether DHS was sufficiently proactive, and on the scene helping the DNC identify the intruders and patch vulnerabilities,” he wrote.
“The answer, to the best of my recollection, was not reassuring: the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other months before about the intrusion, and the DNC did not feel it needed DHS’s assistance at that time.”
Johnson also expressed that disappointment during verbal testimony while answering a question from Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.). In that answer, however, Johnson did not mention how much time it took for DHS to get involved.
“[T]he response I got was, FBI had spoken to them, they don’t want our help. They have CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm. And that was the answer I got after I asked the question a number of times, over the progression of time.”
Thursday morning, President Trump asked why the DNC turned down assistance, saying it showed that the hacking campaign was a hoax.
“…Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It’s all a big Dem HOAX!” he wrote.
All U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the attacks were not a hoax, but rather a component of an influence campaign directed by Moscow.
Trump was not the only person to hear Johnson’s oral testimony as a suggestion that the DNC turned away help it could have used, however.
Former DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile tweeted Wednesday night that Johnson “got it wrong today,” noting that DHS only contacted the party after the hack was made public. She also said that the DNC cooperated fully, even providing a thorough report on the hack to DHS.
“The DNC has and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement on Russia’s interference in our election,” said the DNC’s Watson.