DNC chair: US is in cyberwar and Trump is 'asleep at the switch'

Comments come after DNC 'false alarm'

By ADAM LEVY, CNN
George Frey/Getty Images

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez

(CNN) - Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez attacked President Donald Trump and Republicans for dragging their feet on cybersecurity after fears earlier this week that an unauthorized "simulated phishing test" was an attempted hack attack on the party's voter database.

"We are at war right now -- it's a cyberwar and unfortunately the commander in chief of the cyberwar is asleep at the switch because he benefits and has benefited from the cyberwar," he told CNN Thursday. "We're not waiting for help, we're not waiting for the cavalry from the White House. We're working with our partners in the cyber-ecosystem and that is in part how we were able to address this, what turned out to be a false alarm."

Unaware the attack was a test, the DNC contacted the FBI on Monday when it was detected. Perez said proper protocol was followed.

"When we saw that there was something potentially of the nature of a phishing attempt on our crown jewels -- the voter file -- we immediately sprung into action. We immediately worked with others in the cybersecurity world, and we were able to identify the problem, localize the problem, ensure that there was no damage to be done," Perez said. "I'm relieved that it was a false alarm but I'm also very, very cognizant of the fact that this is going to continue to happen and we're not going to have false alarms in the future."

Asked if the administration is doing enough on cybersecurity, Perez said, "The short answer is absolutely not, and I say that with anger and sadness because this is not a partisan issue. It shouldn't be a partisan issue. These are attacks on our democracy."

On Wednesday, a bill to protect elections against cyberthreats stalled in the Senate after it became clear it would not have enough Republican votes to be approved and advance to the floor. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said secretaries of state from around the country raised concerns with aspects of the bill. A GOP aide added that senators are working on changes to the bill to meet those policy concerns.

"You've seen the Republican Senate drag its feet," Perez said. "We'll take it up after the election. The election is what it's all about, and that is just unconscionable."

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