Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., slammed the FBI on Wednesday for a “lack of cooperation” with the Defense Department and intelligence agencies to address a Russian hack of Florida voting databases in the 2016 election.
The criticism of the bureau is the latest salvo from the vocal Trump ally, who has railed against top officials over an alleged scheme to undermine the president.
After defense officials briefed members of the House Armed Services Committee, Gaetz said he was surprised the U.S. military did not know more.
“I left that briefing deeply disappointed at the lack of cooperation and synergy among the agencies dealing with this challenge,” Gaetz told Politico. “I would expect DoD to know a lot more than they do about the tactics, targets, and methods of Russian election interference.”
“The U.S. military is not sufficiently engaged or informed on critical aspects of the Russian election interference campaign,” he added in a tweet. “They don’t even know which two Florida counties were hacked. We need to work in a bipartisan way to defeat Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election.”
Stacy Arruda, a retired FBI agent who now heads the Florida Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, suggested in the Politico report that the FBI might be withholding information from the military due to an ongoing national security investigation. Gaetz acknowledged he did not work at the FBI for two decades like Arruda, but said that it “seems nuts to me that for ‘national security’ reasons the FBI wouldn’t share info with the DOD on the operations of a foreign military.
The FBI briefed Florida officials last week about the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report indicating Russia was able to hack into at least one Florida county’s computer network. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said two networks were breached.
“Two Florida counties experienced intrusion into the supervisor of election networks,” DeSantis said on Tuesday. “There was no manipulation or anything, but there was voter data that was able to be got. Now, that voter data I think was public anyway, nevertheless those were intrusions. It did not affect any voting or anything like that.” DeSantis said the FBI told him not to reveal the identities of those two counties, but elections officials in those counties were made aware of the hacking.
Gaetz has questioned the veracity of Mueller’s investigation, noting how he cited media reports “as if they’re gospel when they clearly are not.” In a Fox News interview last month, he said evidence of FBI officials improperly receiving incentives from the media in exchange for leaks would soon come out.
“One of the other nuggets that the inspector general is working on is the corruption that existed between the media and members of of the FBI,” Gaetz said. “Where members of the mainstream media were giving concert passes and athletic tickets and other incentives to people in the FBI to leak to them so we’ll be seeing that even before we see the inspector general’s report on how this fraudulent investigation began.”
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced the initiation of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuse investigation in March 2018 after requests from both then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Republican members in Congress. He is expected to wrap up by May or June. At least two other federal investigations or reviews are underway looking into allegations of FISA abuse and other matters related to the way that the FBI and Justice Department handled the Trump-Russia investigation.
Although Mueller’s report did not find sufficient evidence to establish criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, Congress is still investigating President Trump on multiple fronts. Some Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., still insist there is “evidence in plain sight” of collusion and that Trump is too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Gaetz argued the opposite.
“By expanding American energy, expelling diplomats, and ensuring the United States takes its position in the world, President @realDonaldTrump has been tougher on Russia than any president in a generation,” he tweeted Wednesday.