ORLANDO, Fla. – The Senate Intelligence Committee last week released its first report that details Russia's attempt to interfere in the 2016 election.
The report revealed all 50 states were targeted, but no votes were changed and no voting machines were manipulated. Russians were able to access voter information in two unknown counties in Florida.
U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-St. Augustine, joined News 6 anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to discuss the report.
"Our point as an entire delegation -- Republican and Democrat -- to DHS and FBI that you can't keep this stuff secret," Waltz said. "You have to figure out a way to protect your sources and methods of how you found out about what the Russians did and balance that with notifying and reassuring the public."
Waltz says the report underscores both that determined foreign actors can gain access to America's election infrastructure and Russia is skilled and willing to meddle in our electoral process.
Steps are being made at the federal, state and local levels to improve election security ahead of the 2020 election. Congress approved $380 million to replace aging voting machines, but some intelligence professionals and U.S. officials believe the systems are still vulnerable.
"It's a big task and going back to paper ballots isn't necessarily the answer," Waltz said. "I'm confident we're taking big steps forward on both the administration side and the Congressional side, but we have to stay one step ahead from our adversaries. What I would like to see is very clear messaging to them that we're going to respond forcefully if you mess with our electoral system."
Waltz also discussed the federal government scoping sites in Central Florida for a camp to hold minors detained at the southern border. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent letters to Florida lawmakers saying it's looking for vacant properties to build permanent licensed facilities for children under age 18 who have entered the United States illegally without a parent or guardian.
"I'm not involved in the discussions," Waltz said. "But I do think this is a symptom of a much broader problem. We have an unsecured border and asylum laws that I think are attracting migrants, particularly children. It used to be that illegal immigrants were running from border patrol, now they're running towards them because they know they're going to be housed and fed."
"Unfortunately now because of the mass crossings, those facilities are now completely overwhelmed, but then they know they'll be released and told they'll come back for a future court date years in advance," Waltz continued. "That word is out across Central America and I think that's why you're seeing that massive flow."