May 16, 2019

Rep. Matt Gaetz rips military over response to Florida breaches blamed on Russia

Rep. Matt Gaetz criticized the military’s handling of foreign interference in the 2016 elections following revelations about Russian hackers successfully compromising two counties in his state.

Mr. Gaetz, Florida Republican, called for the Department of Defense to play a larger role in responding to Russian hackers after being briefed about the Pentagon’s knowledge of the recently disclosed Florida breaches.

“A foreign military attacked our election system and at this time our own military doesn’t even know the location of those attacks. We have to do better,” the two-term congressman said during a press conference.

Foreign attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential elections have been documented since before the election ended, but details about the apparent success Russian hackers had in Florida have only emerged in recent weeks. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed last month that the FBI believed “at least one” Florida county was hacked in 2016, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he was told that a couple of counties had been compromised.

Mr. Gaetz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, previously raised similar concerns about the military’s handling of the hacks on the House floor Wednesday.

“The U.S. military is not sufficiently engaged or informed on critical aspects of the Russian election interference campaign. They don’t even know which two Florida counties were hacked,” he said. “Russia has a whole of government approach to this problem, and I would urge us to work in a bipartisan way in the Defense Authorization Act to ensure that we are ready with our full authorities to defeat Russia in their efforts to interfere with our election.”

The Defense Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Hackers working for Russian military intelligence managed to breach the Florida countries through by compromising a private vendor used by both, Mr. DeSantis said. No votes were altered as a result, he said.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 race.