It's time for Sen. Bill Nelson to stop the act. He's been caught. His claims of Russian hackers "fixing" Florida's elections system are unsubstantiated.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FBI Director Christopher Wray wrote in a five-paragraph letter dated Monday that they are not aware of any new or persistent hacks that have compromised state or local election systems in Florida, countering public statements the state’s senior senator made Aug. 8 to Tampa Bay Times reporters.
While acknowledging intrusions are possible, the federal officials' letter said, “We have not seen new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida.”
The story was played prominently in the Tuesday morning edition of The Wall Street Journal.
“Secretary Nielsen and Director Wray are very clear in their response that … we have not seen any new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida...’ Detzner confirmed Tuesday.
In fact, Nelson spilled the beans himself last week. By mistake. See the YouTube video on this page, especially the moment of surprise when he realized he was being recorded.
What he told the Times about Russian hackers Aug. 8 scrambled reporters and cameras and elections officials, and put the governor on his heels, wasting his time for nothing:
"They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about," Nelson said. Though the Democrat made a similar statement a day earlier, he refused to elaborate at that point. "That's classified," he said.
What did happen July 2 is, Nelson and Florida's junior senator, Republican Marco Rubio, wrote to all of the state's 67 supervisors of elections to make them aware of the dangers. But nowhere in the letter did they say evidence existed Russians were hacking into Florida's elections system.
The national Republican Party is generous, suggesting Nelson might have been "just confused" when he unleashed his lie. But I don't feel that generous. The senator who has served in elected office almost entirely since 1972 has been reaching for a crisis, even if he has to make one up -- anything to get him before a camera -- from toxic algae blooms to Homestead to Walton Beach to Russian hackers on our doorstep. The man is desperate.
In his bid for re-election he trails his challenger, Gov. Rick Scott. Even the incessant liberal-media barrage counting Scott failures can't alter the good news that surrounds the governor.
Meanwhile, as late as Monday, Nelson was on the Senate floor talking about voting, but never once did he mention his claims about Russian hacking in Florida, nor did he refute them.
Admit you went too far, Senator. None of this is amusing. Early voting has already started. It was wildly irresponsible for you to let this lie linger, needlessly casting doubt on the integrity of Florida’s elections in order to give your campaign and self-importance a boost.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith