Trump fires US election security chief

·2-min read

President Donald Trump has fired the director of the federal agency that vouched for the reliability of the 2020 election.

Trump fired Christopher Krebs in a tweet, saying his recent statement defending the security of the election was "highly inaccurate".

While abrupt, the dismissal was hardly surprising. Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, had offered a stream of statements and tweets in the past week attesting to the integrity of the election, directly contradicting Trump's false assertions of widespread fraud without mentioning the president by name.

CISA executive director Brandon Wales is expected to take over for Krebs as the acting head of the agency on Wednesday.

The firing of Krebs, a Trump appointee, comes as Trump is refusing to recognise the victory of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden and removing high-level officials seen as insufficiently loyal.

He fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on November 9, part of a broader shake-up that put Trump loyalists in senior Pentagon positions.

A former Microsoft executive, Krebs ran the agency, known as CISA, from its creation after Russian interference with the 2016 election through the November election.

He won bipartisan praise as CISA co-ordinated federal state and local efforts to defend electoral systems from foreign or domestic interference.

Krebs has repeatedly pushed back against false claims that the election was tainted. Earlier on Tuesday, he tweeted out a report citing 59 election security experts saying there is no credible evidence of computer fraud in the 2020 election outcome.

Trump fired back on Twitter later in the day. He repeated unsubstantiated claims about the vote and wrote "effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency".

Krebs, from his personal Twitter account, responded: "Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow." He closed with the phrase "Protect 2020", which had been his agency's slogan before the election.

Officials with CISA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, had no immediate comment.

Democrat Adam Schiff, 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."

Krebs kept a low profile even as he voiced confidence before the November vote and, afterward, knocked down allegations that the count was tainted by fraud. At times, he seemed to be directly repudiating Trump.

CISA works with the state and local officials who run US elections as well as private companies that supply voting equipment to address cybersecurity and other threats while monitoring balloting and tabulation from a control room at its headquarters near Washington.

It also works with industry and utilities to protect the nation's industrial base and power grid from threats.