Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. states' election systems in the 2016 presidential race, a USA official told Congress on Wednesday, but a former official testified that a video of Donald Trump bragging of sexual conquests distracted attention from Washington's warnings.
Johnson tells the panel that US voting systems remain vulnerable to future cyberattacks.
The Senate Committee, conducting its own Russian Federation investigation, held a similar hearing with DHS and FBI officials on the other side of the Capitol on Wednesday.
He told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that Russian Federation also "pushed fake news and propaganda" to sow discord and undermine the key democratic principle of free and fair elections.
The email hacks that led to the release before the election of troves of information about the Democratic National Committee were all part of Russia's "information warfare" campaign, said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division.
"I'm actually disputing it somewhat, because I talked to Debbie Wasserman Schultz after the hearing, and she basically said no one came to her", the California Democrat told Jake Tapper on CNN.
Johnson says a lot of internal discussion and consideration preceded an October statement about the hacking from his department and the director of national intelligence.
JEH JOHNSON: In retrospect, it would be easy for me to say that I should have brought a sleeping bag and camped out in front of the DNC in late-summer.
Johnson says Comey would not have made such a move lightly. But Johnson told the committee that the DNC didn't want DHS's help with the investigation.
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Johnson testified that he worries most about the vulnerability of state voter-registration databases to intrusions, including the manipulation of voter-registration data. "One of the candidates, as you recall, was predicting the election was going to be rigged in some way".
Officials in the testimony would not specify which states were targets, but acting deputy undersecretary Jeanette Manfra said the states affected are aware.
As the summer wore on, Johnson said he began to see efforts to scan and probe state voter-registration databases, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation had warned states about in August.
He shared that he grew increasingly more anxious about a cyberattack against the US election system and that he and others "sounded the alarm but that the press and voters were focused on a lot of other things".
Johnson described his discussions with state election officials about ensuring the integrity of the voting process.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading an investigation of alleged Russian interference as the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, accused Johnson of waiting too long to publicize the seriousness of Russia's interference in the election.
"A sophisticated actor could hack an election simply by focusing on certain counties", King said. They considered running elections "a sovereign and exclusive responsibility of the states" and viewed his proposal as a federal takeover.
"In 2016 the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the goal of influencing our election - plain and simple", said Johnson, who warned that cyberattacks would get worse before they get better.
Johnson also spoke on his decision in January 2016 to designate election infrastructure as a subsector of critical infrastructure, which made election infrastructure a priority for cybersecurity assistance and protections.
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