Christopher Krebs: Correcting Trump's Fraud Claims The 'Right Thing To Do' Christopher Krebs, who led the federal government's efforts to secure the 2020 election, called the operation near seamless despite President Trump's claims to the contrary.

Fired Official Says Correcting Trump's Fraud Claims The 'Right Thing To Do'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The nation's former top security - cybersecurity official was fired by President Trump after saying the 2020 election was the most secure ever. Now Chris Krebs is talking with us. Krebs lost his job two weeks ago after correcting voter fraud disinformation, contradicting the president's baseless claims of fraud. Krebs talked with Steve Inskeep on Monday, which was the same day Wisconsin and Arizona certified their vote tallies with President-elect Joe Biden winning both states.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Chris Krebs describes himself as a lifelong Republican appointed by President Trump. His job was working with many government agencies to assure an accurate and reliable vote. He says the effort worked.

CHRIS KREBS: This was a secure election. That is a success story. That is something that everyone in the administration should be proud of.

INSKEEP: Krebs was fired after making statements just like that. His agency within the Department of Homeland Security contradicted President Trump's disinformation designed to overturn a democratic election. Krebs says the United States upgraded its defenses against computer hacking but faced a different kind of threat.

KREBS: What has become known as a perception hack, where a adversary could claim that a system was compromised or magnify a vulnerability or magnify an insignificant compromise - and I think, ultimately, that's what we considered the biggest risk we were going to have to address.

INSKEEP: What was the president's role, if any, in accelerating disinformation?

KREBS: Well, we certainly saw throughout that a number of people associated with the campaign, some of the legal team were pushing certain narratives that we just fundamentally knew to be false, including foreign manipulation of voting systems, that there was an algorithm. We knew that it was important to get this information out there, that we had to put information in front of people that may be considering other sources of information. We just wanted to provide additional facts, more information.

INSKEEP: Did you know that - particularly, I think of when you brought agencies together and got everybody behind a statement saying that this had been an extremely secure election - did you know that you might be - well, that you might be fired?

KREBS: So what you bring up here is a statement that was released on November 12 by a group of organizations, both federal government, state and local government representatives, as well as members of the private sector, including some of the systems' - the vendors. And it was a community statement. It was based on the work that everyone had done over the last 3 1/2 years. It was important to get that statement out. And whether I or anyone else thought it was a, you know, career-limiting move, I don't think, A, that crossed my mind necessarily. And even if it had, it wouldn't have mattered because it was the right thing to do in the name of democracy.

INSKEEP: You have been active since your dismissal in speaking up for the security of this election still because the president and others have continued to push false claims about the security of the election. How much damage is being done?

KREBS: I think that continuing to push narratives that call into question - without evidence that I've seen - about the systems, about the machines, about the public servants involved in elections and administration of election, that's not just damaging to the psyche of the American voter, but I think it's also doing a serious disservice to the many election officials out there who are, above all else, upholding one of our most cherished public institutions. And that's, you know, voting.

If I can help one person out there overcome this disinfo that's out there, then I feel like it's a good day's work.

INSKEEP: What have you thought about as the conspiracy theory QAnon, which is supportive of the president, has been blended in some ways with the false conspiracies about the election?

KREBS: I try not to think about QAnon too much. It makes my head hurt. The biggest challenge we're going to have is now that disinformation, political disinformation, disinformation related to the administration of elections and government seems to have seeped into the mainstream, what are the mechanisms that we're going to use to restore confidence in elections, restore confidence in democracy ultimately? And, you know, those are the things that I think about now that I'm out of the job. Those are the things that I think about (laughter) every day, all day long.

INSKEEP: How worried are you about the future of democracy?

KREBS: I think we're in a really dangerous spot right now. We have to restore confidence in democracy. And to me, one of the best and simplest ways to do that is invest in democracy, invest in elections. The key difference between 2020 and 2016 for me is that in 2020, 95 or so percent of votes cast had a voter verifiable paper audit trail. In 2016, that number was 82%. And what that means is that you can go back and check the results to ensure that they're consistent over and over and over again. Congress needs to take a victory lap on that because they appropriated grants to states over the last three years to help states like Georgia and Pennsylvania put in these systems with paper ballots. They didn't have them in 2016.

INSKEEP: I think you're telling me that Republicans in Congress voted for ballot security and that they could now be saying, hey, this works; this is great. There's an entirely different narrative that ought to be taking precedence here.

KREBS: There were several election security related pieces of legislation in the House and the Senate over the last couple years that never got across the finish line for one reason or the other. There were, however, some that did that were baked into or included in pieces of legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act. And there was a billion-plus dollars in grant funding sent out to states. And so I think that's a success story No. 1. Success story No. 2 is that this was a secure election. That's the story that I feel we should be telling right now.

INSKEEP: Mr. Krebs, it's a pleasure talking with you. Thank you very much.

KREBS: Thanks a lot, Steve.

INSKEEP: Chris Krebs led the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump appointed him to that job and later fired him from it.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.