Franken, Dems raise alarm about cyber-meddling in midterms

Democrats are raising alarm bells about cybersecurity ahead of this year's midterm elections, fearing foreign interference and saying the Russians will “be back.”

Disgraced former U.S. Sen. Al Franken spoke about cybersecurity in Portugal on Tuesday, four months after he resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations, urging Congress to secure Americans’ privacy and democracy.

“If we can’t have a political discourse where we agree on basic, objective facts … then our democratic government will continue to be polarized and paralyzed,” he said, according to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

Former U.S. Sen. Al Franken, shown in an undated photo, spoke in Portugal on Tuesday about U.S. cybersecurity concerns.

Former U.S. Sen. Al Franken, shown in an undated photo, spoke in Portugal on Tuesday about U.S. cybersecurity concerns. (Associated Press)

“They’ll be back. They never left,” Franken said about Russia’s disinformation efforts in the country.

Fear of possible foreign influence in the democratic process prompted the Department of Homeland Security to launch "Cyber Storm," an exercise through which federal government hackers have been breaking into states' election systems, to detect vulnerabilities, Denver's Westword reported.

It also prompted two congressional Democrats to ask the White House to disclose what steps were taken to ensure President Donald Trump doesn’t fall prey to foreign hackers over his personal phone use.

U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., sent a letter last week to high-level White House officials following reports concerning about Trump’s phone calls.

“While cybersecurity is a universal concern, the President of the United States stands alone as the single-most valuable intelligence target on the planet,” the Democrats wrote, the Hill reported.

“Our national security should not depend on whether the President clicks on a malicious link on Twitter or his text application, or the fortuity of foreign agencies not knowing his personal cell number,” they wrote.

The duo asked if the president’s mobile device has been “properly vetted” and whether the phone isn’t connected to any unsecured networks when travelling outside of Washington, D.C.

“The American people deserve to know whether steps are being taken to prevent the President’s personal phone from jeopardizing his own safety, the integrity of the Office, and critical national security information,” they wrote.

President Trump, however, has suggested in the past that at least some Democrats' cyber-worries may be excuses to avoid coming to terms with the party's election defeats.

"Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, lead by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn’t I a great candidate?," the president tweeted in October.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., issued a report Monday calling on the House Appropriations Committee to hold budget hearings on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) mission to protect critical infrastructure from hackers.

“Long-term issues about the Department’s capacity to execute this critical mission for the nation continue to be of concern. We should continue to ensure that the government is making the best, most effective issue of its capabilities and assets to help defend both the .gov domain as well as, perhaps even more importantly, the American private sector,” the Lawmaker wrote, according to the Hill.

“In the long run, this may require a fundamental restructuring of how the government addresses these issues, both functionally and structurally.”