Last week, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson claimed that the Florida voting system had been compromised by Russians leading up to the 2018 elections. But on Tuesday, the Florida senator distanced himself from his earlier claim, blaming the political climate for his inconsistent statements.
Last month, Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio co-authored a letter they sent to 67 county election supervisors within the state, urging them to be vigilant and warning them of potential threats in November. This letter did not state that voting systems had been “penetrated” by the Russians, as Nelson claimed last week.
“They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about,” he said in reference to Russian hackers, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “We were requested by the chairman and vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee to let the supervisors of election in Florida know that the Russians are in their records.”
The Florida Department of State has refuted Nelson’s claims, saying they have received no such information from federal intelligence officials about a specific threat to the state’s voting system.
“If Senator Nelson has specific information about threats to our elections, he should share it with election officials in Florida,” Florida Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell said in a statement.
Now Nelson is trying to backtrack from last week’s claim by saying that what he said then was the same as what was in the letter he and Rubio sent to county officials in July.
“What I said last week was exactly what the letter states,” Nelson said in video footage obtained earlier this week. “What that letter says is, in essence, is that it would be foolish to think if the Russians were in our election apparatus in 2016 … that they are not continuing.”
The letter does not state that any voting system has already been “penetrated” by the Russians.
Nelson then blamed the political climate, saying political opponents were to blame for his insistence that voting systems in Florida had been compromised by a foreign entity — a claim that has yet to be backed up by any federal intelligence officials or state election officials.
“What has happened is, this has gotten political,” he said. “So certain political figures have taken that and tried to use it for partisan political purposes.”