(Updated) Florida Governor Rick Scott charged on Tuesday that U.S. Senator Bill Nelson hasn’t been transparent about his recent statements that Russians have “penetrated” into Florida’s election system this year.
Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting in the state Capitol, Scott said that inquires by the Florida Secretary of State last week to federal authorities have failed to confirm Nelson’s comments, leading him to question how Nelson obtained such classified information, and why Nelson chose to tell the information to a reporter.
When asked if he thought Nelson was being irresponsible in making the comments, Scott said:
“Yeah, why would you do this? The options are: It didn’t happen, or he released classified information. The Secretary of State’s office – we put a lot of money in to make sure that we have no tampering of our election system, and he’s saying the opposite.”
Neither North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, nor Florida Senator Marco Rubio have confirmed or denied Nelson’s statements about Russian hacking in Florida’s election systems this year. Nor has any other official from the federal government.
Scott is challenging Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat this fall, and the governor has seized on Nelson’s comments from last week, which were the first time that any such alleged hacking into Florida’s election system this year had been reported.
Speaking publicly for the first time in days since his explosive comments from last week, Nelson did not back down when meeting with reporters at a campaign stop in the Panhandle town of Quincy on Monday night, telling the Tampa Bay Times, “It would be foolish to think that the Russians would not continue to do this as they did in Florida in 2016.”
Nelson said on Monday that Senator Burr and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, “came to us (Nelson and Rubio)” back in June and told Nelson’s camp to contact Florida’s election supervisors to encourage the supervisors to reach out to the federal government for cyber-security assistance, the Times reported.
After the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, a reporter challenged Scott about his own Department of State’s transparency over how Florida officials were slow to reveal that there had been attempts to hack into Florida’s election system in 2016. Florida election officials say that such attempts were unsuccessful.
“The agency has been clear that we don’t believe that anybody was able to get into the system,” Scott replied. “We had a free and fair election, they’ve been clear about that all along.”
As to the current security of the state’s election system, the governor said:
“My understanding is we’ve reached out to Homeland Security and FBI, and they said they didn’t know about anything.”
UPDATE: Bill Nelson made his most extensive remarks about his comments on Tuesday afternoon on the campaign trail. Watch below: