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Trump Tweets That He Fired Top Cybersecurity Official Christopher Krebs

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump says he has fired Christopher Krebs. He is the head of the agency in the Department of Homeland Security that oversees election security. Krebs said last week he thought that he would be out of a job soon as he worked to combat disinformation about voter fraud. NPR's Miles Parks covers election security and joins us with more.

Hi, Miles.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: President Trump announced this news in a couple of tweets this evening. What did they say?

PARKS: Basically, what President Trump says is - it's kind of a list. The tweets start with a list of his conspiracies, frankly, about voter fraud. He says there were dead people voting. Poll watchers were not allowed into polling locations. There were glitches in the voting machines. None of these claims have been backed up with any evidence over the last couple of weeks. But because of all these things, President Trump says he's firing Chris Krebs, who released a statement along with a number of other government agencies last week that said, basically, this was the most secure election in the nation's history. And he says because there's this kind of contradiction here, Chris Krebs has been terminated.

SHAPIRO: So it's not just that there's no evidence for President Trump's claims. In fact, this appointee came out and said this was a free and fair election without fraud, and that's the reason he's getting kicked out. Well, tell us more about what Krebs' role has been in this election.

PARKS: Well, Krebs has really overseen, over the last couple of years, this transformation inside the federal government to start thinking about election security. You know, it's hard to imagine, but four years ago, when the Russians attacked election infrastructure in this country, there was no clear situation where people didn't know who to talk to. It took months, in some cases, more than a year, for the correct state officials to get information about the Russian hacking that went on in their states. And so Krebs has basically overseen, over the last couple of years, this effort to change that. They've started a number of working groups. The communication - that's the biggest change between 2020 and 2016 is just the amount of communication happening from the federal government down to the state level, down to the local level. Local government officials I've talked to, state government officials I've talked to have basically been raving for the last few weeks about just how different this election felt. And Krebs has been kind of at the center of all of those efforts.

SHAPIRO: So tell us more about what this statement said, that Krebs' agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency - what was in that statement that seems to have provoked Trump?

PARKS: Right, so it says specifically, quote, "the November 3 election was the most secure in American history." It goes through a couple different details. And then at the end of one of the paragraphs, it says, there's no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was any way compromised. And so that directly kind of cuts against a lot of the Trump campaign's claims in court and claims in the courts of public opinion about how this election went.

And I should also say that Krebs' agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, has been running a website called Rumor Control that's basically meant to fight disinformation about elections. It was kind of set up to fight foreign interference or that was how it was messaged. But over the last couple of weeks, most of the rumors that it had been debunking have been rumors that have kind of come either through President Trump's Twitter feed or through the Trump campaign. And so there has been this constant kind of back-and-forth between Trump's - between this agency and President Trump.

SHAPIRO: And briefly, what does this mean for the future of the agency?

PARKS: It's unclear. You know, I talked to an official at DHS last week about what it could mean if Krebs was fired, and he said it would rock CISA was the direct quote. So, you know, this isn't great for election security, according to officials.

SHAPIRO: CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency - that is Miles Parks, who covers election security for NPR.

Thanks, Miles.

PARKS: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: And we should add that Chris Krebs responded to his firing. On his personal Twitter account, he tweeted, honored to serve. We did it right. Defend today. Secure tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.