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Former Cybersecurity Official Mulls Lawsuit Against Trump Attorney

December 1, 2020 by Tom Ramstack
Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON — A former Trump administration head of cybersecurity is considering legal action against a lawyer for the president who said Monday he should be executed.

The dispute arose from President Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud during the presidential election he lost last month.

Christopher Krebs, who led the federal government’s election cybersecurity, contradicted the president by saying it was the most secure election in American history. Trump responded by firing Krebs.

Joe diGenova, an attorney who is assisting in Trump’s lawsuits to challenge the election results, said during an interview on the conservative radio talk show “The Howie Carr Show, “Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

On Tuesday, during an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show, Krebs said he was reviewing his options for a lawsuit against the attorney.

He called the implied threat “dangerous language” during an interview with “TODAY” show host Savannah Guthrie.

“And the way I look at it is that we are a nation of laws, and I plan to take advantage of those laws,” Krebs said. “I’ve got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court, and I think they’re probably going to be busy.”

He gave no details of his planned action against diGenova, saying only, “They can know there are things coming though.”

He also defended his Homeland Security Department division’s efforts to protect the integrity of the election by saying, “We did it right.”

Other criticism came from the legal community, which Fordham Law School legal ethics professor Bruce Green says advises attorneys to avoid threatening language.

But he also cast doubt on whether Krebs might have a valid legal claim against diGenova.

“Mr. diGenova’s statements are obviously hyperbole,” Green told The Well News. “They were not meant to incite others to draw and quarter Mr. Krebs or to take him out at dawn and shoot him. It would be hard for a court to sanction Mr. diGenova for violating a disciplinary rule, both because the rule is not clearly applicable and because there’s a pretty good argument that the comment was political speech protected by the First Amendment.”

Nevertheless, he agreed some kind of denunciation was appropriate.

“The right response is not a court sanction but professional opprobrium — condemnation by the community of lawyers, which should recognize that Mr. diGenova’s comment was unworthy of a citizen and most especially unworthy of a lawyer,” Green said.    

Krebs’ job title in the Trump administration was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. He also worked in cybersecurity during the administration of George W. Bush.

Trump fired him in a Nov. 17 Twitter message that said, “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud – including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, “glitches” in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

Krebs continued to defend security efforts during the election even after he was fired.

During a CBS “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, Krebs criticized Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani for what he described as misinformation about voter fraud. Giuliani is leading Trump’s legal challenge to the election that showed Joe Biden won the presidency.

Krebs referred to recent statements by Giuliani at a press conference when he said, “It was upsetting because what I saw was an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people.”

Among the three dozen state and federal lawsuits Giuliani and his team have filed, more than 30 have been dismissed by judges.

Giuliani’s latest challenge to the election was on Monday in Arizona. He asked the state legislature to throw out the results and seize control of the state’s 11 electoral votes. 

Joining Krebs in the criticisms of Giuliani’s legal strategy were some of the judges who presided over the president’s failed lawsuits.

“This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together,” wrote Judge Matthew W. Brann of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, when he dismissed the Trump campaign’s attempt to block certification of Pennsylvania’s election result.

“This Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence,” Brann wrote in the Nov. 21 ruling. “In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more.”

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