Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Says She Was A Target Of A Hacking Attempt
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Many parts of the U.S. government are warning about foreign interference in our elections. For our next guest, the mission has become personal. Democrat Jeanne Shaheen represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate. Her office has been the target of online attacks. She joined us now to describe what's happening. Senator, welcome to the program.
JEANNE SHAHEEN: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
CORNISH: Now we've heard a lot about email phishing attempts. But in your case, I understand, it was a phone call. What happened?
SHAHEEN: Well, some of our staff have gotten phishing attempts on their email, but the particular incident that we turned over to the FBI had to do with someone calling the office to - impersonating a Latvian official trying to set up a meeting to talk with me about Russian sanctions and about Ukraine.
CORNISH: And this was a meeting that did not happen.
SHAHEEN: It did not happen because, fortunately, my staff is very well trained and very on top of things. And so they called the Latvian Embassy just to confirm and learn that it was a fake phone call. And that's when we turned the information over to the FBI.
CORNISH: Who do you believe is behind that call? Do you think this is part of a wider Russian misinformation campaign?
SHAHEEN: I don't know who's behind it. My office doesn't have any investigative ability. We turn issues like this over to appropriate authorities, and we don't usually find out what happens to those investigations.
But what we do know is that the Russians are interfering. They're interfering in advance of our elections in 2018 to a greater extent than they did in 2016. We know that they have hacked into party offices in various places across the country. And...
CORNISH: Right. And your fellow senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri also was the target of a cyberattack attributed to Russia.
SHAHEEN: That's right. And we know that they have interfered. They've tried to hack into our electric grid and to other infrastructure in this country. So this is a serious issue.
And what I've been saying is that we need a bipartisan approach to address it. We need to help states as they're looking at their electoral systems in advance of the 2018 elections. I was disappointed that funding to help states harden their electoral systems went down today in the Senate.
But we need to understand that this is something that is a deliberate effort on the part of the Russian government to undermine our democracy. And there's...
CORNISH: I want to jump in here because James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democrat - they have legislation that they're working on that they think would encourage states to work on election cybersecurity. But are you hearing much from the other aisle, from the White House, about stepping up to help offices like yours?
SHAHEEN: Well I think the Lankford and Klobuchar legislation is very important, and I'm pleased that it seems to be moving forward.
But unfortunately, we have not seen the kind of leadership from the White House that I was hoping we would see. The president chaired a National Security Council meeting last week on Friday, but no new initiatives came out of that. And he continues to undermine the idea that the Russians are trying to influence our elections by refusing to acknowledge what happened in 2016. And...
CORNISH: Does that leave offices like yours on your own, essentially?
SHAHEEN: Well, fortunately, we have Senate security, and we have other authorities who are - we can turn this kind of incident over to to investigate.
But what we need is leadership at the very top to say, this is an issue. It's a threat to our democracy because what they're doing is undermining Americans' belief that our democratic process works. They're trying to sow divisions in this country, to exacerbate existing divisions. And we need the president to say, this is not in America's interests, to believe what his intelligence agencies are telling him as opposed to what Vladimir Putin is telling him.
CORNISH: Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, thank you so much for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
SHAHEEN: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.