U.S. President Donald Trump fired his administration’s top cybersecurity official Tuesday for daring to repeatedly insist there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or technical glitches in the presidential race.
In a tweet, Trump said Christopher Krebs — director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) — has been “terminated” from his position, effective immediately.
Trump said Krebs’ comments about the Nov. 3 election’s security have been “highly inaccurate,” before listing baseless allegations he and Republicans have been pushing for weeks now.
Twitter slapped warning labels on both tweets announcing Krebs’ firing, saying the claims about election fraud were “disputed.”
In a tweet from his personal account, Krebs said he was “honored to serve” but did not reference Trump or his inaccurate claims.
“We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow,” he tweeted.
Hours before being dismissed, Krebs tweeted out a report citing 59 election security experts saying there is no credible evidence of computer fraud in the 2020 election outcome.
Yet Trump also appeared to be referring to a statement issued Friday by CISA from federal and state election officials, who called this year’s election “the most secure in American history.”
The statement also pushed back against claims that Dominion Voting Systems, an automated vote tabulation software used by several states — including important battlegrounds that Trump lost to president-elect Joe Biden — had either switched or eliminated votes.
“There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” the CISA statement read. The sentence was bolded for emphasis.
Dominion along with several election officials and scientists, including Krebs, have said the Trump campaign’s claims are not rooted in any evidence. Krebs’ tweet Tuesday said such allegations “have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.”
Trump later tweeted that the “only thing secure about our 2020 Election was that it was virtually impenetrable by foreign powers,” before again baselessly accusing Democrats and Dominion of wrongdoing.
Trump himself created the CISA almost exactly two years to the day before he fired Krebs, who was also appointed by the president to lead the new cybersecurity agency.
The CISA was created in the wake of Russian interference with the 2016 election. Krebs, a former Microsoft executive, won bipartisan praise as CISA co-ordinated federal state and local efforts to defend electoral systems from foreign or domestic interference.
Before and particularly after the election, Krebs has publicly assured that the election was secure and was not susceptible to issues like software manipulation. He has spent the past three weeks pushing back against claims of fraud and interference from Trump, his campaign and Republicans like Rudy Giuliani.
The CISA itself has also maintained a website called “Rumor Control,” which has fact-checked false claims about election security.
Other election officials have already jumped to Krebs’ defence on social media, including Ellen Weintraub of the Federal Election Commission, who has also been outspoken about false claims of voter fraud.
“(Krebs) is a dedicated public servant and patriot, who knew he worked for the American people and always did his best for them,” she said on Twitter.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House intelligence committee, assailed Trump for “retaliating against Director Krebs and other officials who did their duty. It’s pathetic, but sadly predictable that upholding and protecting our democratic processes would be cause for firing.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Krebs a “deeply respected cybersecurity expert who worked diligently to safeguard our elections.”
“Instead of rewarding this patriotic service, the President has fired Director Krebs for speaking truth to power & rejecting Trump’s campaign of election falsehoods,” she said on Twitter.
One of the few Republicans joining in the criticism was Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic. “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,” he said.
Biden campaign spokesman Michael Gwin noted that bipartisan election officials have dismissed Trump’s claims of widespread fraud. “Chris Krebs should be commended for his service in protecting our elections, not fired for telling the truth.”
Last week, Reuters reported that Krebs had told associates he expected to be fired in the fallout from the election, citing government officials.
White House officials have asked for content to be edited or removed that pushed back against numerous false claims about the election, the sources said, including that Democrats are behind a mass election fraud scheme. CISA officials have chosen not to delete accurate information.
Amid the reports that Krebs feared he might be fired, Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, had said he was concerned and sent a text to the director to ask him if he was OK. The response was, in effect, “for now,” the Mississippi Democrat said.
“It’s a shame if someone with his talent is all of a sudden muzzled,” Thompson said. “I have not seen a partisan bone in his body. He’s been a consummate professional.”
Rep. Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat who focuses on cybersecurity issues, had called on his Republican colleagues to stand up for Krebs before he could be removed from his post.
“Chris Krebs and CISA have done so well under his leadership because he and his team have kept their heads down and done the job they were tasked with doing and not gotten caught up in partisan politics,” Langevin said.
–With files from the Associated Press and Reuters