Tonight, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp won a primary run-off to become GOP nominee to be the next Governor of Georgia. Kemp enjoyed the staunch backing of President Trump.
But there’s another part of Kemp’s story. In August 2016, as Obama administration officials were trying to enlist the support of state election officials to counter unfolding Russian election interference and efforts to hack into state election systems, Kemp was an outspoken hold out, attacking the initiative an assault on state’s rights.
Here’s a key passage from a June 2017 Washington Post retrospective on the Obama administration efforts to counter Russian attacks in the second half of 2016.
Jeh Johnson, the homeland-security secretary, was responsible for finding out whether the government could quickly shore up the security of the nation’s archaic patchwork of voting systems. He floated the idea of designating state mechanisms “critical infrastructure,” a label that would have entitled states to receive priority in federal cybersecurity assistance, putting them on a par with U.S. defense contractors and financial networks.
On Aug. 15, Johnson arranged a conference call with dozens of state officials, hoping to enlist their support. He ran into a wall of resistance.
The reaction “ranged from neutral to negative,” Johnson said in congressional testimony Wednesday.
Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.
Stung by the reaction, the White House turned to Congress for help, hoping that a bipartisan appeal to states would be more effective.