Democratic 2016 VP candidate Tim Kaine told CNN's Chris Cuomo that the Trump administration is not doing enough to "protect American democracy" from foreign adversaries like Russia, after the U.S. government "failed" in 2016.
CNN, CHRIS CUOMO: What was your level of surprise to hear Mike Rogers say no, the president hasn’t asked me to do anything to combat Russian cyberattacks?
SEN. TIM KAINE: Well Chris, I was shocked but not surprised. I'm on that committee as well so I was in the room.
I asked Admiral Rogers -- I said, look, don’t you think we have been humiliated as a nation? We probably lost the first cyberwar that we've been in with a foreign adversary. And he acknowledged it and said we did not view the electoral system as critical infrastructure we needed to protect.
But then you add to it, OK, are you -- have you been directed now to protect it? His answer was no and that's why mayors and governors around the country who have to operate elections don’t have much confidence that the federal government is acting to protect the American democracy.
CUOMO: Why isn't it happening, in your opinion?
KAINE: There's not been a direction from the commander in chief to any of the relevant agencies to provide the level of protection that we need.
Admiral Rogers, yesterday, stressed look, I'm an operator. I need direction from the top to do things and elections are matters that states and localities run.
Claire McCaskill then jumped in and said you can't tell me that the Missouri secretary of state is equipped to go up against Russia in the cyber realm and defend an election. We've got to have federal help, either from the DHS or the DOD.
But the head of our cyber command, Admiral Rogers, who's a dedicated professional, says he has not been given any directive to do that from his commander in chief or superiors.
CUOMO: Now, the pushback you'll get is well, we don’t need new direction. We've -- we do so much every day. This is ongoing war. Just because the rest of you have woken up to the reality doesn’t mean that the Intelligence Community, and the DOD, and the Pentagon haven't been all over this for a long time now.
Do you believe that's a fair pushback?
KAINE: I don’t believe it's fair and I don’t think Admiral Rogers believes it either.
I asked him -- look, we failed. The history of 2016 was the U.S. was humiliated by a foreign adversary we failed to protect. I said the U.S. government failed to protect the U.S. democracy.
And I asked Admiral Rogers what is the source of that failure and he basically cited two problems. He said first, we did not view the electoral system as critical infrastructure.
We protect the electricity grid, we protect financial institutions, but the government wasn't protecting the electoral system.
And the second thing he said, and this was telling -- he said we underestimated the adversary. We thought when we told them we know what you're doing, don’t do it anymore, that they wouldn’t persist, but Russia persisted. And there's a painful lesson there but we're not yet acting to try to put into place what we've learned as a result of this failure.