Senators push for better security for 2018 election season

The Free Press WV

Government efforts to protect state and local elections from Russian cyberattacks in 2016 didn’t go far enough, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee said Tuesday as the panel released recommendations to safeguard against foreign meddling in the 2018 primary season that’s already underway.

Federal warnings last time did not provide enough information or in some cases go to the right people in state and local governments, the committee’s leaders said, though they reiterated that there was no evidence votes were changed. Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 general election, the Homeland Security Department has said, and top U.S. intelligence officials have said they’ve seen indications Russian agents are preparing a new round of election interference this year.

The committee’s recommendations include urging states to make sure voting machines have paper audit trails and aren’t capable of being connected to the internet. Senators also are pushing for better communication among the various U.S. intelligence agencies and federal, state and local governments about cyber threats and vulnerabilities in computer systems.

The committee’s recommendations preview an election security report expected to be released in full in the coming weeks. It is the first of three reports the panel plans to write in its wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, released a preview of committee recommendations ahead of a Wednesday hearing examining attempted hacks on state election systems in 2016 and the federal and state response.

The bipartisan recommendations, in large part, echo those made by cybersecurity experts and address concerns raised by state and local officials. Even with Republican and Democratic support, it’s unclear if the recommendations will translate into legislation. Burr said his panel doesn’t have jurisdiction over the issues, so another committee would have to write any bills in Congress.

“While our investigation is still ongoing, one conclusion is clear: The Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 elections, and they will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in Western democracies and in the legitimacy of our elections,” said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Burr said the committee’s investigation revealed that the Russian cyber effort exposed “some of the key gaps” in the security of the nation’s election infrastructure. He said the committee wants to maintain state control of elections, but the federal government should be doing more to help.

“Clearly we’ve got to get some standards in place that assure every state that at the end of the day they can certify their vote totals,” he said.

Senators are also urging state and local election officials to take advantage of resources provided by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, such as comprehensive risk assessments and remote cyberscanning of their networks to spot vulnerabilities. Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up those vulnerabilities in 10,000 U.S. voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology.

As of last month, just 14 states had requested risk assessments and 30 had asked for remote cyberscans of their networks, according to Homeland Security officials. But even that was straining resources, since many of those risk assessments have not been completed.

Illinois, which is holding the second-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, requested the assessment in late January but it’s not scheduled to be completed until after the primary.

The senators are also recommending that states consider implementing “more widespread, statistically sound audits of election results.” Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia require postelection audits, with three others conducting such audits under some circumstances.

But cybersecurity experts say the best approach would be for states to require risk-limiting audits, a type of an audit that uses statistical methods and is considered a more rigorous process. So far, three states — Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia — have passed legislation to require them.

Other states, including Georgia, are weighing legislation this year that would implement risk-limiting audits.

It’s unclear when the committee’s full report on election security will be released, but it is expected to include recommendations for elections officials around the country and also proposals for legislation to help ward off the hacking.

There’s no evidence that any hack in the November 2016 election affected election results, but the attempts scared state election officials who sought answers about how their systems had been potentially compromised. DHS took nearly a year to inform the affected states of hacking attempts, blaming it in part on a lack of security clearances. Lawmakers in both parties have pressed the department on why it took so long.

Warner has said he thinks the process to prevent such hacking needs to be more robust, especially since President Donald Trump has not addressed the matter as an urgent problem.

At the hearing Wednesday, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and current Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will both testify.

The Senate intelligence panel has put off making any assessments about whether Trump’s 2016 campaign in any way coordinated with Russia. Though that is one part of the panel’s investigation, Burr and Warner have decided to focus on less controversial issues where all members agree.

White House: Death Penalty Will Be Part of Opioid Response

The Free Press WV

The White House has rolled out the “more nuanced” response to the opioid crisis it promised after President Trump talked about executing drug dealers earlier this month. The revised plan White House officials discussed Sunday still involves the death penalty, but officials say they don’t plan to make trafficking in fentanyl a capital crime, let alone launch a Rodrigo Duterte-style bloodbath. Instead, the administration says it will seek capital punishment for drug traffickers where appropriate under existing federal law, the Washington Post reports. Federal law allows the death penalty in four kinds of drug-related crime, all of which also involve murder, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Andrew Bremberg, Trump’s domestic policy director, says the president also wants Congress to pass legislation lowering the minimum amount of fentanyl and other strong opioids needed to trigger mandatory sentences for dealers, the AP reports. The administration says it also has a plan to reduce opioid prescriptions by one-third by 2021. “The opioid crisis is viewed by us at the White House as a nonpartisan problem searching for bipartisan solutions,“ adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters, per Politico. Trump is expected to discuss the plan on a Monday visit to New Hampshire, one of the states hardest-hit by the crisis that he has declared a national public health emergency.

WV Legislative Update


Hats off to the players and coaches of the Braxton County Eagles on an outstanding basketball season, culminating in making the AA state tournament field. Eagle players, coaches, cheerleaders and fans represented your school, Braxton County and central West Virginia well. We are indeed proud of your accomplishments – on and off the court. Again, congratulations on an outstanding season.

Bills that passed during the just completed legislative session continue to be prepared for presentation the Governor for his action: Thus far, thirty-two bills have been signed into law by the Governor:

SB 62 Adjusting requirements for hiring school attendance directors

SB 71 Defining “veteran” as it pertains to veteran-owned business

SB 263 Eliminating film tax credits

SB 267 Increasing salaries of certain state employees

SB 360 Clarifying oil and gas permits not be on flat well royalty leases)

SB 379 Supplemental appropriation from State Excess Lottery Revenue Fund to DHHR

HB 2546 Allowing replacement costs of employer provided property to be deducted from an employee’s final paycheck if the property is not returned

HB 2612 Repealing section relating to unattended motor vehicles and penalties

HB 2831 Relating to the reconstitution of the Driver’s Licensing Advisory Board

HB 2889 Allowing military veterans with certain military ratings to qualify for examinations required of probationary police officer

HB 4135 Updating the meaning of federal taxable income and certain other terms used in the West Virginia Corporation Net Income Tax Act

HB 4142 Providing certain employees of the Division of Corrections, Division of Juvenile Services, and West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority a salary adjustment

HB 4145 Increasing the annual salaries of members of the West Virginia State Police, public school teachers and school service personnel   

HB 4146 Updating meaning of federal adjusted gross income and certain other terms used in West Virginia Personal Income Tax Act

HB 4162 Granting authority to the State Conservation Committee to contract for flood response

HB 4242 Clarifying the jurisdictional amount for removal of a civil action from magistrate court to circuit court)

HB 4268 Co-tenancy Modernization and Majority Protection Act

While the Governor had already signed SB 267, later in the session HB 4145 passed and was also signed into law. Any time the same code section is changed, the bill that passed last takes precedence.

Meanwhile, there are 108 bills awaiting the Governor’s action with several more in route to the Governor’s office through the bill enrollment process. Some bills of note and interest that are pending his action:

SB 37 Equalizing penalty for entering without breaking regardless of time of day

SB 47 Requiring Defense Department advocacy groups be notified in abuse or neglect of military person’s child

SB 73 Modifying crime of fleeing from scene of accident

SB 143 Permitting DNR identification tag be used to identify trap

SB 152 Budget Bill

SB 327 Providing extortion of anything of value, including sexual contact, subjects person to criminal penalty

SB 346 Permitting full-time nonresident students purchase lifetime resident hunting, trapping and fishing licenses

SB 364 Allowing parent or legal guardian of homeschooled child provide signed statement for obtaining permit or license to operate motor vehicle

SB 365 Relating to Young Entrepreneur Reinvestment Act

SB 397 Creating crime of impersonating blind or disabled person

SB 561 Increasing minimum contract price requiring execution of bond with respect to building or repairing school property

HB 2028 Relating to the venue for suits and other actions against the state 03/16/18

HB 2464 Relating to disclaimers and exclusions of warranties in consumer transactions for goods

HB 2483 Requiring the Division of Juvenile Services to transfer to a correctional facility or regional jail any juvenile in its custody that has been transferred to adult jurisdiction of the circuit court and who reaches his or her eighteenth birthday

HB 2654 Expanding county commissions’ ability to dispose of county or district property

HB 2693 Relating to state ownership of wildlife

HB 2694 Relating to the development and implementation of a program to facilitate commercial sponsorship of rest areas

HB 2696 Relating to crossbow hunting

HB 2890 Establishing a Library Facilities Improvement Fund that will serve to support library facilities construction, maintenance and improvement projects

HB 2983 Granting priority to roadway construction, reconstruction and maintenance for roadways prone to recurring floods that hinder ingress and egress

HB 3005 Relating to regulation of unmanned aircraft systems

HB 4023 Relating to the regulation of dialysis technicians

HB 4024 Relating generally to direct cremation or direct burial expenses for indigent persons

HB 4025 Permitting reciprocity for licensure as a pharmacy technician

HB 4042 Redefining school zone to facilitate placement of school zone signs

HB 4138 Requiring certain public or private schools and daycare centers to install carbon monoxide detectors

HB 4169 Requiring certain establishments and facilities to post human trafficking assistance notices

HB 4175 Preventing requirement that an advanced practice registered nurse participate in a collaborative relationship to obtain payment

HB 4178 Permitting certain portions of certified nurse aide training to be provided through distance learning technologies

HB 4207 Authorizing an online application to receive a commission to act as a notary public, and eliminating the bond requirement

HB 4276 Allowing magistrates to grant work release privileges

HB 4279 Relating to adult protective services system

HB 4289 Relating to disability pensions of municipal employees

HB 4336 Updating the schedule of controlled substances

HB 4402 Relating to the prevention of sexual abuse of children

HB 4436 Clarifying when a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 may be employed by or elected as a member of a volunteer fire department

HB 4462 Allowing off duty members and officers of the department of public safety to guard private property

HB 4473 Relating to use of state funds for advertising to promote a public official or government office

HB 4478 Authorizing public schools to distribute excess food to students

HB 4509 Relating to the establishment of substance abuse treatment facilities

HB 4546 Relating to where an application for a marriage license may be made

Please send your inquiries to my home office:  151 Park Street, Gassaway, WV 26624.  My home number is 304-364-8411; the Capitol office number is 304-340-3142.  If you have an interest in any particular bill or issue, please let me know.  For those with Internet access, my legislative e-mail address is:

You may also obtain additional legislative information, including the copies of bills, conference reports, daily summaries, interim highlights, and leave me a message on the Legislature’s web site at  When leaving a message, please remember to include your phone number with your inquiry and any details you can provide. Additional information, including agency links and the state government phone directory, may be found at Also, you may follow me on Facebook at “Brent Boggs”, Twitter at “@DelBrentBoggs” , as well as the WV Legislature’s Facebook page at “West Virginia Legislature” or on Twitter at

Continue to remember our troops - at home and abroad - and keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Until next week – take care.

Trump’s Tweets on Mueller Have Republicans Worried Some think the president is moving closer to firi

The Free Press WV

It’s been a busy weekend on the Robert Mueller front thanks to the firing of Andrew McCabe, and both Politico and the AP are taking note of a potentially big development: President Trump is now going after Mueller directly in tweets. The president has previously complained about the investigation but generally avoided direct shots at the special counsel. That changed this weekend. “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?“ he tweeted Sunday. On Saturday, he complained, “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.“ And that same day, Trump attorney John Dowd urged the Justice Department’s Rod Rosenstein to shut down the Mueller investigation, though he later clarified that he was speaking for himself.

Might all this suggest that Trump is moving closer to firing Mueller himself? “It seems to be building toward that,“ said GOP Sen. Jeff Flake on CNN, per the Hill. “I just hope it doesn’t go there, because it can’t.“ Fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham echoed the sentiment, warning that firing Mueller “would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation.“ Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, meanwhile, pushed back on Trump’s allegation of “hardened Democrats” on Mueller’s team. After all, he said, Mueller himself is a Republican, while his boss, Rosenstein, and Rosenstein’s boss, Jeff Sessions, were appointed by Republican presidents.

Under Kushner, Firm Filed False NYC Housing Paperwork

The Free Press WV

When the Kushner Cos. bought three apartment buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood of Queens in 2015, most of the tenants were protected by special rules that prevent developers from pushing them out, raising rents, and turning a tidy profit. But that’s exactly what the company then run by Jared Kushner did, and with remarkable speed. Two years later, it sold all three buildings for $60 million, nearly 50% more than it paid. Now a clue has emerged as to how President Trump’s son-in-law’s firm was able to move so fast, the AP reports: The Kushner Cos. routinely filed false paperwork with the city declaring it had zero rent-regulated tenants in dozens of buildings it owned across the city when, in fact, it had hundreds, including as many as 94 in the Queens buildings.

Had the Kushner Cos. disclosed those rent-regulated tenants, it could have triggered stricter oversight of construction crews by the city, including possibly unscheduled “sweeps” on site by inspectors to keep the company from harassing tenants and getting them to leave. While none of the documents during a three-year period when Kushner was CEO bore his personal signature, they provide a window into the ethics of the business empire he ran before joining the administration. “It’s bare-faced greed,“ says Aaron Carr, founder of Housing Rights Initiative, a tenants’ rights watchdog that compiled the false construction permit applications and shared them with the AP. Kushner Cos. responded in a statement that it outsources the preparation of such documents to third parties that are reviewed by independent counsel.

Democrat Offers McCabe a Job So He Can Keep Pension

The Free Press WV

When Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, one of the points that drew attention is that the move came just two days before McCabe’s retirement took effect, thus putting McCabe’s federal pension in jeopardy. Now, however, a Democratic congressman is suggesting a work-around. Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin has offered the former FBI deputy director a temporary job to allow McCabe to “reach the needed length of service” and qualify for his full benefits, reports NBC15. It just might happen, notes the Washington Post, because a McCabe spokesperson says he is considering all his options.

“My offer of employment to Mr. McCabe is a legitimate offer to work on election security,” said Pocan in a statement. Other Democrats, including Rep. Seth Moulton, also have said they would consider hiring McCabe. The retirement rules were a little murky, but one former federal official familiar with them tells the Post that a temporary job would probably do the trick. It’s possible that McCabe, who turned 50 on Sunday, would have to work only a day or two to qualify.

Have A Minute?‏

The Gilmer Free Press

It was another busy week in Washington. From launching a new initiative to hear directly from West Virginians and working to improve America’s infrastructure to providing regulatory relief for community banks and small businesses, there is a lot to report. Keep reading for more details on all of these efforts and others.

Share Your Stories

2017 marked a year of important accomplishments that will help improve your lives. But I want to make sure what we are doing in Washington continues to help West Virginians. That’s where you come in. I want to hear about positive changes you are seeing in your life and your community. From bigger paychecks and business expansion to increased broadband access and new efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, what solutions are you seeing in your towns and neighborhoods? And just as importantly, what solutions do you want to see?

Improving America’s Infrastructure

From repairing and finishing our roads and bridges to improving access to rural broadband, infrastructure reform provides so many opportunities for our country. By rebuilding and improving our infrastructure, we can better connect our communities, encourage new investments, and make it easier to continue growing our economy.

Through my committee assignments, I am in a position to play a central role in this process. In fact, I participated in a number of hearings this week as part of the infrastructure discussion. The first focused on broadband access and infrastructure while the second featured testimony from five Cabinet secretaries about the administration’s infrastructure proposal. Reforming our infrastructure has always been a priority of mine because I know what kind of positive impact it will have on our state, and it is also a top priory for the Trump administration.

I will continue to keep you updated as Congress works to develop an infrastructure package.

Relief for Main Street

For years, our smaller financial institutions in West Virginia have struggled under the weight of burdensome Dodd-Frank regulations. But this week, the Senate sent a clear message that those days are over when we passed the most significant reform of Dodd-Frank since it became law nearly a decade ago. This legislation will provide commonsense regulations for Main Street businesses, community banks, credit unions, and smaller financial institutions in West Virginia. Hardworking West Virginians deserve a fair shot and a chance to succeed, and this legislation will give them that chance.

Grant Updates

Making sure our communities and businesses in West Virginia have the resources they need to succeed is important. Whether it’s providing funding to help a local startup get off the ground or support a community infrastructure improvement project, my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee has allowed me to advocate for these West Virginia priorities. This week, I was proud to announce several grants and loans that will help communities and programs across the state. Learn more about each one below:

  $120,068 for Charleston Area Medical Center
  $103,803 for West Virginia University Research Corp.
  $61,555 for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
  $662,000 to construct a new senior facility in Wood County

Spending Summer in the Senate

It’s hard to believe school will be out for the summer in just a few months. My office offers summer internships on Capitol Hill and in West Virginia where students can gain a better understanding of public service, see the government in action, and be part of it.

Think you might be interested? Learn more details about the program on my website, and be sure to apply before the deadline on Friday, March 30. Hope to see you around the office this summer!

The Gilmer Free Press
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator

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