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Fla. governor demands Senate Intel Committee explain Sen. Bill Nelson's claim about Russian hackers

From left, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott speak to the media about Hurricane Irma on Sept. 6, 2017 in Doral, Florida. Scott and Florida's secretary of state have demanded to know what Nelson meant when he said that Russian hackers had already "penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Florida's governor and secretary of state asked the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee for information regarding one U.S. senator's recent claim that Russian hackers had breached Florida's election systems.

In a letter dated Aug. 9, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner requested clarification from Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told reporters that the committee had told him that the hackers had "penetrated" the state's election systems and “now have free rein to move about.”

Scott is currently challenging Nelson for his Senate seat. Real Clear Politics views this race as a toss-up.

What did Nelson say?

On Wednesday, Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times, "We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records."

Nelson added, “They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about.”

Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Sara Sendek said that her department was not aware of any breaches in Florida.

“While we are aware of Senator Nelson’s recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure,” Sendek said, according to The Hill.

After Sendek made that statement, Nelson's office told the Tampa Bay Times that “[t]he senator stands by his statement.”

What did the letter say?

In the letter, which was addressed to Burr, Scott and Detzner said that they took these claims from Nelson “very seriously” and demanded to “be made fully aware of any system infiltration so it can be swiftly addressed.”

Detzner said he was “very concerned" by Nelson's comments:

Let me be clear, this is a serious charge made in a public setting without any evidence, details or any prior communication to state or local election officials in Florida. With Florida's Primary Election only three weeks away and the General Election soon soon to follow, it is imperative that the voting public maintains confidence in our elections system, and comments such as these only serve to erode public trust in our elections at a critical time.

The letter explained that after Nelson's comments, the Florida Department of State had contacted Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. None of these agencies was able to corroborate Nelson's claims. Detzner wrote:

[I]f you [Senator Burr], Senator Nelson or any federal agency, government official or elected official has information that verifies that “the Russians are in Florida's election records”, I urge immediate transparency and cooperation in sharing that information so that we can take action to protect our elections.

 

What else?

TheBlaze reached out to Burr and Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) Thursday for a comment about Nelson's original statement, but Burr's office declined to comment, and Warner's office has not yet responded.

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