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Ryan to delay election security briefing, make it classified

The Hill logo The Hill 5/17/2018 Morgan Chalfant
Paul Ryan wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has postponed a briefing for members of Congress on the security of U.S. voting systems so that it can be classified.

The move comes after Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), pressed GOP leadership to make the briefing classified so that officials could go into sufficient detail about the scope of the threat and the Trump administration's efforts to protect digital election systems from hackers.

Sources told The Hill that the briefing, originally scheduled for Thursday evening, has been pushed back as a result of logistical issues that prevented it from being classified. GOP leadership is now working to reschedule the briefing.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats were originally scheduled to brief members on the Trump administration's efforts to secure digital election infrastructure on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Ryan announced the briefing late Monday, amid widespread concerns about foreign threats to the midterm elections triggered by a Russian interference campaign in the 2016 vote that included cyber targeting of state election systems. The Speaker's announcement came on the eve of primaries in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon.

The briefing was initially planned to be unclassified, but limited to members of Congress.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), however, charged that the unclassified nature would prevent officials from going into enough detail about efforts to protect U.S. voting systems.

"House Republicans have treated election security as a third rung issue for over a year, it is time for them to finally take this national security issue seriously," Thompson said. "The next federal election is less than six months away."

Pelosi, meanwhile, wrote a letter to Ryan on Tuesday urging him to make it classified to "address the seriousness of the attack on our democracy."

The briefing is expected to be rescheduled as early as next week.

Mike Lillis contributed.

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