US President Donald Trump on Tuesday night fired his administration’s most senior cybersecurity official responsible for securing the presidential election, Christopher Krebs, who had systematically disputed Trump’s false declarations in recent days that the presidency was stolen from him through fraudulent ballots and software glitches that changed millions of votes.
The announcement came via Twitter, the same way Trump fired his defence secretary a week ago and has dismissed other officials throughout his presidency. The President seemed set off by a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security late last week, the product of a broad committee overseeing the elections, that declared the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”
“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate,” Trump wrote a little after 7 p.m., “in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” He said Krebs “has been terminated” as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a post to which Trump himself had appointed him.
Krebs, 43, a former Microsoft executive, has been hailed in recent days for his two years spent preparing the states for the challenges of the vote, hardening systems against Russian interference and setting up a “rumour control” website to guard against disinformation. But much of that disinformation came not from Moscow, but from the White House.
Only two weeks ago, on Election Day, Krebs’ boss, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, had praised Krebs’ work, including the “rumour control” effort. But behind-the-scenes efforts by administration officials to keep Trump from firing Krebs apparently failed.
Krebs started telling colleagues he expected to be fired after the election as early as June, when the president started claiming that mail-in voting would be “rigged.” The refusal by Krebs and his agency to back up the president’s claims put him on a list of disloyal officials, Krebs believed, that included Mark Esper, who was fired as secretary of defence shortly after the election; Christopher Wray, the FBI director; and Gina Haspel, the director of the CIA. Wray and Haspel remain in their jobs.
In recent weeks, Krebs drew the president’s ire again with his refusal to echo Trump’s conspiracy theories about software glitches and dead people voting. Quite the contrary: Within hours of Trump tweeting false reports that millions of Trump votes were deleted, Krebs joined election officials in calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”