The federal indictment released Friday that accused Russian intelligence officials of snooping around local election-related websites in Georgia surfaced in the race for governor, as the state’s top elections official scrambled to fend off questions about the security of the voting system.
The indictment accuses 12 Russian nationals of engaging in a “sustained effort” to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks. It also claims that the agents scanned the web presences of several counties in Georgia, Iowa and Florida in search of vulnerabilities, though it does not list which ones.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who faces a July 24 GOP runoff against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, said during Sunday’s Channel 2 Action News debate that he was told by Department of Homeland Security officials the system was not “targeted and not hacked.”
“Look, people go on websites every day, across state government and local government,” said Kemp. “That has nothing to do with the state systems under the purview of the Secretary of State’s office. We’ve protected those and we continue to protect them.”
That echoes a statement released from his office shortly after the indictment was filed saying that “there never has been a breach” in the state office and that Georgia’s election system was secure.
Cagle did not directly invoke the indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller, whom President Donald Trump has suggested is part of a “deep state” conspiracy to weaken his administration.
Instead, he tied the questions about Georgia voter security to a Kemp staffer’s accidental disclosure of the confidential data of millions of Georgia voters to political parties and media outlets.
“It has been widely reported that there are significant concerns that exist in terms of protection within the Secretary of State’s office,” he said, saying that if Kemp struggled with the “little things” then he’d be disastrous managing a state.
In his response, Kemp accused of Cagle of trying to “distort” his record, and said he put in new safeguards after the staffer’s error was discovered.
“It’s good to see that Pinocchio 2.0 has arrived at our second debate,” he said.