Russia Dismisses Election Interference As Proof Is Found

DeSantis: Russians hacked two Florida voter databases ahead of 2016 election

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis / Getty Images
May 14, 2019

Republican governor Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday that Russians hackers had gained access to the voting databases of two Florida counties ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The announcement came on the same day the Russian government again denied any interference in the election, calling such accusations "baseless."

DeSantis, who was briefed on the matter by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security, said the hacks didn't result in any voter data being manipulated or election results compromised.

The governor further said he was prohibited by the FBI from disclosing the names of the counties hacked, but that election officials in the jurisdictions were informed of the issue. At the times of hacks, the previous Republican governor, now senator Rick Scott, was unaware of the intrusion.

"We're trying to figure out what the state knew at the time," DeSantis told the Associated Press. "Obviously, the previous administration and the head of [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement]  did not have that information."

Rumors of Russian interference in Florida's voter infrastructure have been floating for some time. Last year, the state's former senior senator, Bill Nelson, claimed Russia had "penetrated" Florida's voting records in the midst of a heated reelection battle against Scott. Since Nelson refused to provide any evidence the specter of Russian interference subsided until the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's findings last month. In his report, Mueller wrote that Russian hackers had gained access to the voter database of at least one Florida country.

Florida's other Republican senator, Marco Rubio, confirmed the hack in an interview with the New York Times last month, stating the Russians were "in a position" to change voter roll data.

The Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, however, have continued to deny any interference on their part. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, issued a similar denial during a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Sochi, Russia on Tuesday.

Lavrov dismissed as "baseless accusations" the notion that Russia tried to influence the U.S. elections process with "certain collusion" from "high-ranking officials."

"It's clear such insinuations are absolutely fake," Lavrov said. "We hope this tumultuous situation will die down and lead to professional dialogue between the U.S. and Russia."

The meeting between Pompeo and Lavrov, part of a larger attempt to improve relations between the two countries, occurred shortly before DeSantis's news conference announcing the hacks.