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Trump's fraud claims undermine democracy, ex-US election security chief says

Martin Pengelly in New York
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA</span>
Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

Donald Trump and his allies are “undermining democracy” with evidence-free claims of fraud and conspiracy, the former head of US election security said on Sunday, discussing the effort he led before he was fired by the president.

“What I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people,” Chris Krebs told CBS 60 Minutes.

Trump called the interview “ridiculous, one-sided [and] an international joke”, as he continued to tweet conspiracy theories and baseless claims of electoral malpractice.

Trump lost the electoral college to Joe Biden by 306-232, the result he said was a landslide when it was in his favour over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden is more than 6m ahead in the popular vote and won the support of more than 80m Americans, the most of any presidential candidate.

Trump belatedly allowed the transition to proceed but has not conceded defeat, despite his team having won one election-related lawsuit and lost 39.

Relaying baseless claims to reporters over the Thanksgiving holiday, the president did say he will leave the White House if the electoral college is confirmed for Biden. It votes on 14 December, a result certified on 6 January. Inauguration day is 20 January.

Krebs, 43, was fired as head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) two weeks after election day. Two days after that, at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, the Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani gave a press conference in which he and then team member Sidney Powell pushed Trump’s false claims.

“It was upsetting,” Krebs told CBS.

“It’s not me, it’s not just Cisa. It’s the tens of thousands of election workers out there that had been working nonstop, 18-hour days, for months. They’re getting death threats for trying to carry out one of our core democratic institutions, an election. And that was, again, to me, a press conference that … didn’t make sense. What it was actively doing was undermining democracy. And that’s dangerous.”

Trump tweeted in response, part of a stream of Sunday night messages.

“There is no foreign power that is flipping votes,” Krebs said. “There’s no domestic actor flipping votes. I did it right. We did it right. This was a secure election.”

Claims by Trump lawyers of interference from Venezuela or China were “farcical”, he said, adding: “The American people should have 100% confidence in their vote.”

Polling, however, shows a majority of Republicans believe the president. Krebs defended state officials who Trump, and subsequently his supporters, have targeted.

“It’s in my view a travesty what’s happening right now with all these death threats to election officials, to secretaries of state,” Krebs said.

“I want everybody to look at Secretary [Kathy] Boockvar in Pennsylvania, Secretary [Jocelyn] Benson in Michigan, Secretary [Barbara] Cegavske in Nevada, Secretary [Katie] Hobbs in Arizona. All strong women that are standing up, that are under attack from all sides, and they’re defending democracy. They’re doing their jobs.

“Look at Secretary [Brad] Raffensperger in Georgia. Lifelong Republican. He put country before party in his holding a free and fair election in that state. There are some real heroes out there. There are some real patriots.”