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Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP) Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim November 18, 2020

Fact-checking Donald Trump’s tweet firing Christopher Krebs

If Your Time is short

• Fifty-nine of the nation’s top experts in cybersecurity and election security agreed with Krebs that there is no credible evidence to suggest that the Nov. 3 election was “rigged.”

• As evidence of his assertion, Trump reiterated a series of claims, all of which we have fact-checked before and rated False, Mostly False, or Pants on Fire!

In a Nov. 17 tweet, Donald Trump fired his most senior cybersecurity official for affirming the security of the 2020 presidential election. 

Christopher Krebs, a Trump appointee, headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at the Department of Homeland Security and directed efforts to shore up election security. He has repeatedly contradicted Trump’s baseless claims that voter fraud swung the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. 

"The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud," Trump tweeted. "Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated."

The statement Trump was referring to was released by officials from two Department of Homeland Security committees — the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council overseeing cybersecurity. Krebs’ agency released the statement, but his name is not attached.

Although the statement did not mention Trump directly, the officials contradicted his claims that the Nov. 3 election was rigged against him. They called it the most secure election in U.S. history.

"There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," the statement reads. 

Even though Krebs lost his job, his assessment of the election wasn’t wrong. Evidence shows it's Trump’s claim that is lacking in accuracy.

Substantial evidence supports CISA statement

The CISA statement that led to Krebs’ ouster is supported by a multitude of evidence.

Fifty-nine election and cybersecurity experts agreed in a public statement that claims of a "rigged" election "either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent."

David Evans, a professor of computer science at the University of Virginia, told PolitiFact that he signed the joint statement because "there is no substance ... no credible specifics, and no evidence to support any of the claims" of a rigged election. 

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"It is always difficult to prove something did not occur, which is why people who work in security are so careful to avoid strong statements," Evans said. "But in this case, because of the size of the margin, all of the security measures that were in place and worked as intended, and the lack of any evidence of anything fraudulent happening, one can be highly confident that there is no credible possibility that the results of the election are invalid."

Dan Wallach, a professor of computer science at Rice University who studies the security of election voting systems, also co-signed the statement.

"It’s one thing to say we’re aware of vulnerabilities" in our election system, he told PolitiFact. "It’s a whole other game to claim that vulnerabilities have been actively exploited. Making that claim requires evidence."

Trump’s litany of debunked "evidence"

As evidence for his claim that the statement was "highly inaccurate," Trump said in his tweet that "dead people" voted in the election, Republican poll watchers were barred from polling locations, "glitches" in voting machines changed votes from Trump to Biden, voters were allowed to vote late, "and many more." 

We have fact-checked all of these claims and found them lacking evidence.

Trump and his campaign have so far failed to prove that fraudulent votes cast in the name of dead people altered the outcome of the election. (See examples from Detroit, Michigan, Virginia, Nevada and Wisconsin.) We have found that many people whose names appear on viral lists of dead voters are still living, did not vote in the election, or were mistakenly recorded as having voted because they shared a name with a living person. 

The claim that Republican poll watchers were barred from polling locations is False. In both Pennsylvania and Michigan, the two states where Trump has claimed that Republican poll watchers were shut out, hundreds of Republican challengers were allowed into polling stations to observe the count. Trump’s lawyers have acknowledged this fact in lawsuits and court hearings. 

The claim that glitches in voting machines swapped votes from Trump to Biden is also baseless. Many of these claims center on Dominion Voting Systems, which makes software and hardware for election officials to use around the country. Minor issues reported after the election were either the result of human error or temporary malfunctions, and they were quickly resolved. Experts told us that many of the claims about Dominion show a misunderstanding of how voting administration actually works. 

Finally, Trump’s claim that voters were allowed to vote late is misleading. Some states allow mailed ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day a grace period if they arrive shortly after Election Day. All such votes would be legally cast under state law.

Our ruling

Trump tweeted that "the recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud."

A multitude of evidence supports the statement released by Krebs’ former agency that the election was not rigged.

Trump’s claim is not grounded in evidence. We rate it Pants on Fire! 

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.

Our Sources

Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency, Joint statement from elections infrastructure government coordinating council & the election infrastructure sector coordinating executive committees, Nov. 12, 2020

Donald J. Trump, Tweet, Nov. 17, 2020

Email interview with David Evans, professor of computer science at the University of Virginia, Nov. 18, 2020

Interview with Dan Wallach, professor of computer science at Rice University, Nov. 18, 2020

The New York Times, "There’s no evidence to support claims that election observers were blocked from counting rooms," Nov. 7, 2020

PolitiFact, Are dead people among the names in Wisconsin voter roll purge? Jan. 30, 2020

PolitiFact, Dead voters on Detroit’s voter rolls, including person born in 1823? That post is outdated, Nov. 5, 2020

PolitiFact, Donald Trump Jr. distorts Michigan data on dead voters, Aug. 18, 2020

PolitiFact, Fact-checking Trump’s election fraud falsehoods in White House remarks, Nov. 5, 2020

PolitiFact, List does not show over 14,000 dead people cast ballots in Michigan’s Wayne County, Nov. 6, 2020

PolitiFact, No, a dead voter named William Bradley didn’t vote in Detroit, Nov. 5, 2020

PolitiFact, No evidence Dominion Voting Systems caused widespread tabulation errors that flipped votes for Biden, Nov. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, Over 100 Republican challengers monitored absentee ballot count in Detroit, Nov. 6, 2020

PolitiFact, Post wrongly says thousands of ballots sent to dead people, pets in Virginia and Nevada, Sept. 9, 2020

PolitiFact, Ted Cruz falsely claims Philadelphia is counting votes in ‘shroud of darkness,’ Nov. 6, 2020

PolitiFact, Trump’s wrong claim that election observers were barred in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nov. 12, 2020

Scientists say no credible evidence of computer fraud in the 2020 election outcome, but policymakers must work with experts to improve confidence, Nov. 16, 2020

The Trump Campaign, "Trump Campaign Files Suit in Michigan, Citing Irregularities, Incompetence, and Unlawful Vote Counting," Nov. 11, 2020


 

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