Barely two weeks after the polls closed in an election he is now projected to lose, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to fire the official responsible for spearheading efforts to secure the vote.
Trump late Tuesday berated the director of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency, Christopher Krebs, for making what he called a “highly inaccurate” statement about the election, alleging the November 3 presidential election was marred by “massive improprieties and fraud.”
“Effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” Trump added.
Krebs responded to his firing on social media, using a newly verified personal Twitter account.
“Honored to serve,” he said. “We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow. (sic) #Protect2020”
Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow. #Protect2020— Chris Krebs (@C_C_Krebs) November 18, 2020
Tensions over alleged voter fraud had been brewing for months — Trump repeatedly sounding alarms about potential fraud in the run-up to this month’s election, focusing his concern on the expanded use of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He renewed those allegations on November 5, two days after the election, announcing on Twitter that his campaign would be challenging results in many of the states projected to go for his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, due to “Voter Fraud and State Election Fraud.”
However, despite a continuous stream of allegations from his campaign and his supporters, evidence of massive voter fraud or other irregularities on a scale necessary to swing the election in Trump’s favor has not materialized.
Late last Thursday, a coalition of federal and state officials, including CISA, further rejected the allegations as baseless.
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) Executive Committee and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council said. “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”
Krebs himself had also taken an active role in debunking rumors and unfounded allegations in the days and weeks following the election, taking to Twitter to dismiss some conspiracy theories as “nonsense” while also directing voters to CISA’s Rumor Control website for accurate information.
NEW reminder from @CISAKrebs, pushing back against the latest rumors re #Election2020results— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) November 10, 2020
"(1)Hammer/Scorecard is still nonsense, &(2) DHS IS NOT carrying out a fraud sting op using watermarked ballots"https://t.co/wdndoscLQI
On Monday, a group of 59 scientists and election security experts penned a letter to the public, further refuting allegations that the election was rigged.
"No credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise," they wrote. “In every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.”
NEW: 59 election security experts call claims #Election2020 was rigged "unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent"— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) November 16, 2020
"No credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise" pic.twitter.com/g9pDSLT3Dv
On Tuesday, Krebs shared a tweet of the letter from his official Twitter account. It would be the last one he would post, apparently prompting Trump’s ultimate ire.
ICYMI: On allegations that election systems were manipulated, 59 election security experts all agree, "in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent." #Protect2020 https://t.co/Oj6NciYruD— Chris Krebs #Protect2020 (@CISAKrebs) November 17, 2020
Krebs’ firing, though, was not unexpected.
The Reuters news agency last Thursday, citing three sources familiar with the matter, reported Krebs had told associates that he expected the White House to fire him, in part for refusing to remove or change information on the Rumor Control website.
The report prompted an initial outcry, with groups like the National Association of Secretaries of State, coming to Krebs’ defense.
“Director Krebs and the many other CISA staffers we interact with have been invaluable partners in further securing election infrastructure and sharing vital information,” NASS spokesperson Maria Benson told VOA at the time.
That outcry continued to grow late Tuesday as word of Krebs’ dismissal spread, with prominent Democrats and some Republicans making their thoughts known.
“President Trump is retaliating against Director Krebs and other officials who did their duty. It’s pathetic, but sadly predictable,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Democrat Adam Schiff, said in a statement.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Democrat Mark Warner called Krebs, “an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want protecting the security of our elections.”
“It speaks volumes that the president chose to fire him simply for telling the truth,” Warner added.
The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Richard Burr, likewise defended Krebs as “a dedicated public servant,” adding that the campaign CISA developed to promote cybersecurity across the government should serve as a model.
The Biden campaign also weighed in with a statement late Tuesday, criticizing Trump for firing Krebs “for telling the truth.”
“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,” said Biden spokesperson Mike Gwin. “Trump’s embarrassing refusal to accept that reality lays bare how baseless and desperate his flailing is.”
Krebs, who earned praise from both Republican and Democratic state election officials, leaves CISA having served as its only director since it was established as part of the Department of Homeland Security two years ago.
It's a dark day when Director Krebs has been fired by tweet for adhering to the truth. We have enough work fending off election disinformation campaigns from foreign bad actors without having to fight those same battles within our own government. #FactsMatter #Protect2020 https://t.co/kO7lHF7MMA— Vermont Secretary of State’s Office (@VermontSOS) November 18, 2020
He had been scheduled to speak on election security at two virtual events Wednesday. It was unclear as of late Tuesday as to whether he would still speak despite no longer serving in government.
Hey @CISAKrebs, I’m still game tomorrow if you are.— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) November 18, 2020
Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.