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Trump Fires Official Who Didn't Back His Claims of a Fraudulent Election

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Trump Fires Official Who Didn't Back His Claims of a Fraudulent Election

2020-11-18 15:10:00

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Chris Krebs (Image source: Public domain)

Donald Trump had the opportunity to use his famous catchphrase one more time on Tuesday. As he did last week with then-Defenses secretary Mark Esper, and as he's done several other times in his administration, he fired someone from his administration via Twitter. But Chris Krebs expected it.

Krebs, as the Trump-appointed director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, had drawn Trump's ire by contradicting him regarding the legitimacy of the election and being part of a committee that said the 2020 election is "the most secure in American history."

"The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate," Trump tweeted on Tuesday night, "in that there were massive improprieties and fraud  including dead people voting. Poll watchers are not allowed into polling locations, 'glitches' in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and more." He then explained that Krebs "has been terminated" from his position.

Formerly a Microsoft executive, Krebs had been praised since the election for his two years of work to prepare the states for the election. He set up a "rumor control" website to protect against the disinformation that the 2016 election was plagued with. This time there was no great foreign interference, despite concerns.

On Election Day, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, praised Kreb's work in the election. Yet, even Krebs knew his time there was limited. He started telling colleagues as early as June that he expected to be fired after the election when Trump amped up his efforts to show mail-in voting as being "rigged."

Krebs refused to back Trump's conspiracy theories about software glitches and votes cast by dead people. He joined other election officials in calling this election "the most secure in American history."

He'd told friends that he was planning to leave the government after Trump's time in office. He is busy with his family and a fast-growing agency. Up until now, the Trump administration often praised the cybersecurity agency.

Yet, this past weekend he was still producing announcements from his office, including a photo that showed him with other Homeland Security officials and Trump as he signed legislation. On Wednesday he had speaking engagements scheduled.

Even if President-elect Joe Biden invited him to remain on the job, Krebs had earlier told colleagues he most likely wouldn't take him up on it. It was not for political reasons but because he enjoyed the freedom of speaking and working with the news media. He feared the Biden administration wouldn't allow so much freedom.

Before he was fired, Krebs retweeted election expert David Becker's tweet that read, "Please don't retweet wild and baseless claims about voting machines, even if they're made by the president. These fantasies have been debunked many times."

Following Trump's tweet, Krebs himself tweeted, "Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow," and added a hashtag of "Protect2020."

"I'm proud of the work we did at CISA," he told NBC News. "I'm proud of the teammates I had at CISA. We did it right."

After he was fired, he picked up bipartisan support from Capitol Hill and elsewhere. "Of all the things this president has done, this is the worst," said Sen. Angus King (I-ME), who himself led a commission on improving cyberdefenses.

"To strike at the heart of the democratic system is beyond anything we have seen from any politician," added King. He described Krebs as one of the most competent people he'd met in government, and added, "In this administration, the surest way to get fired is to do your job."

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) referred to Krebs as "a dedicated public servant who has done a remarkable job during a challenging time." He added, "I'm grateful for all Chris has done.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the ranking member on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee that oversees federal elections, referred to Krebs's termination as "a gut punch to our democracy," adding, "To use all caps like our outgoing president likes to do: OUTRAGE."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted that Krebs was "fired because he did his job to protect our elections and stood up to Trump's conspiracy theories."

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) said in a statement that Trump was "retaliating against Director Krebs and other officials who did their duty."

"It's pathetic," he added, "but sadly predictable that upholding and protecting our democratic processes would be cause for firing."

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Krebs "is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want protecting the security of our elections." He added that "it speaks volumes that the president chose to fire him simply for telling the truth."

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "Chris Krebs did a really good job  as state election officials all across the nation will tell you  and he obviously should not be fired."

"It's the president's prerogative, but I think it just adds to the confusion and chaos, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that would like some return to a little bit more of a  I don't even know what's normal anymore. We'll call it the next normal," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) called Krebs a "real professional" and someone he's "worked well with." He added, "I think he was very good. I think what he was trying to do in an unprecedented way was to connect with every state in the country and give them what they needed to protect and have a firewall in place to protect against cyberattacks."

"Chris Krebs should be commended for his service in protecting our elections, not fired for telling the truth," said Michael Gwin, a spokesman for Biden's campaign. "Bipartisan election officials in the administration itself  and around the country  have made clear that Donald Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud are categorically false."

The former Homeland Security secretary under former President George W. Bush referred to the termination as "nothing more than Trump's personal vindictiveness."

"He's done everything you would want a senior official at D.H.S. to do," he added. "As far as I'm concerned, this firing is a badge of honor for Chris Krebs."

The firing even garnered an international response. The founder and former head of the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said, "Not seeking to distract attention from the wider issues, but I just want to put on record a tribute to the outstanding service of @CISAKrebs."

"He's been the best partner an ally could hope for," he added, noting that people in the U.S., the U.K., "and beyond are safer online because of his work and leadership."

There were a few in the GOP who walked the line by supporting Trump while also praising Krebs. Senate Intelligence Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL) noted that his interactions with Krebs were "positive" and said he doesn't "have any criticism of his work," yet it was up to Trump to decide whether to fire him.

"I don't have any problem with the job Krebs did, but all these people work for the president. There's nothing illegal or improper in that sense in him having people work underneath him that he wants to work for him," explained Rubio.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) explained it as a decision about what officials Trump wanted in office but also noted, "from everything I saw, it appeared that he did an able job in a difficult and important role."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the termination was Trump's prerogative, but "I don't think there was any interference in our election by foreign powers." He added, "Now there may be some irregularities at the state level, but I believe that this election was secure when it came to foreign influence."

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows walked the line somewhat as well, telling reporters, "I can tell you, as with any personnel decision, they're a lot more complex than what may be just a headline here."


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