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Ex-DHS chief Jeh Johnson to testify Russia "did not alter ballots"

Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson will testify Wednesday at 10 a.m. in front of the House Intelligence Committee as it continues its ongoing investigation into possible Russia interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.

Johnson released a 6-page prepared statement Tuesday evening that praises the Committee's investigation and calls out Russian President Vladimir Putin for orchestrating cyberattacks with the direct purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

Leaked NSA document 02:08

"On Election Day, DHS assembled a crisis-response team to rapidly address any reported cyber intrusions into the election process. To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results," Johnson will testify. "I am not in a position to know whether the successful Russian government-directed hacks of the DNC and elsewhere did in fact alter public opinion and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election."

Johnson led DHS amid Russian cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, as well as attacks against state election databases last year. He advised states on how to protect themselves ahead of the election on Nov. 8.

"Our intelligence community became increasingly convinced that the Russian government was behind the hacks of the DNC and other political institutions and figures," he will say Wednesday.

"By Election Day on November 8, a large number of state and local election officials did in fact respond to our offers of cybersecurity assistance," Johnson will say. "More specifically, almost every state contacted DHS about its services, and 33 states and 36 cities and counties used DHS tools to scan for potential vulnerabilities and/or sought mitigation advice from us."

Johnson wanted to include election infrastructure as "critical infrastructure," which would make it eligible for more protection, but in his prepared statement he said that he tabled the idea after states resisted his offer to help.

Johnson will testify that "on October 7, Director Clapper and I issued the statement formally and publicly accusing the Russian government of directing cyber 'thefts and disclosures [that] are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.'"  

Twice in his testimony, Johnson will ask President Trump and Congress: "What are we going to do to protect the American people and their democracy from future cyberattacks?"

"This very troubling experience highlights cyber vulnerabilities in our political process, and in our election infrastructure itself," he will say.

Also, Johnson is expected to say that he announced on Jan. 6 a determination that election infrastructure in this country should be designated "critical" and his DHS successor John Kelly reaffirmed that designation.

AG Sessions denies Russia collusion 02:31

Johnson's testimony comes on the heels of other high-profile hearings including that of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey.

Both the House and Senate intelligence committees are looking into Russia's meddling in last year's election and whether there was any collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller is leading the FBI's probe. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has called allegations of collusion between Russia and his campaign a "witch hunt" and Mr. Trump's lawyer has since said that the commander in chief "is not under investigation."

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