Philip Ewing

Philip Ewing is an election security editor with NPR's Washington Desk. He helps oversee coverage of election security, voting, disinformation, active measures and other issues. Ewing joined the Washington Desk from his previous role as NPR's national security editor, in which he helped direct coverage of the military, intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and more. He came to NPR in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously, he served as managing editor of Military.com, and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.

Updated at 12:37 p.m. ET

National security adviser Robert O'Brien promised a "professional transition" with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden, partly diverging from the mode in use by President Trump, who says he contests the election.

"If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and, obviously, things look that way now — we'll have a very professional transition with the National Security Council, no doubt about it," O'Brien said.

Updated at 4:48 p.m. ET

President Trump's legal challenges to the election met with a series of defeats and setbacks on Friday as judges found the Trump campaign's arguments and evidence that there was widespread fraud and irregularities with the vote to be lacking.

Democrats have brought the end of the Trump era into sight — but there are more than 70 days to go before the page actually turns and President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.

In the meantime, the most unusual era in modern American politics is phasing into what could be one of its most tumultuous transitions.

Here's what you need to know about the final act.

Resolution and reconciliation — or not

Updated at 10:17 p.m. ET

President Trump's campaign has unleashed a multipronged legal offensive directed at states where vote counting continued Thursday based on unsupported allegations about fraud and irregularities in the election.

Attorneys for the Trump campaign sought intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court and also filed suit in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada seeking remedies they hoped would help their prospects in those places. In some instances, that included requests for counting to cease altogether or at least pause for a time.

Federal authorities were cautiously optimistic early Wednesday about having made it through voting season without major disruption by cyberattacks or other malign activity — but they cautioned that could still happen in the coming days.

"We're not out of the woods yet," said one senior official with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who briefed reporters with other U.S. officials on the condition they not be identified.

Foreign interference is a very old problem, but most Americans didn't used to worry much about it and the security of elections.

Now, lessons learned about the Russian attack on the 2016 presidential election have brought the most intense focus ever on the U.S. information environment, elections practices, voter databases and other parts of the infrastructure of democracy.

Updated on Oct. 23 at 5:47 a.m. ET

Active Russian cyberattacks are targeting a wide swath of American government networks, including those involved with the ongoing election, federal authorities revealed Thursday.

Updated at 1:01 p.m. ET

Government agencies and political actors across the country remain vulnerable to a spoof email scam like the one blamed on Iran by the U.S. spy boss, cyber-analysts said.

Updated at 8:33 p.m. ET

Iranian influence specialists are behind threatening emails sent to voters in Alaska and Florida, U.S. officials said on Wednesday evening and suggested that more such interference could be in store from Russia.

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said the U.S. intelligence community believes Iranian and Russian operatives obtained voter-record information, which enabled Iran to target some people with intimidating emails based on party registration about how they'd better vote for President Trump "or else."

Updated at 2:33 p.m. ET

The Justice Department unsealed charges against six alleged Russian government hackers on Monday and said they were behind a rash of recent cyberattacks — from damaging Ukraine's electrical grid to interfering in France's election to spying on European investigations and more.

The men work for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU — which also led Russian cyber-interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Justice Department officials said Moscow has only sustained or heightened its intensity of effort since then.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D.-R.I., urged Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett to contemplate — and possibly act to end — a number of practices he called damaging to the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court.

Whitehouse, who used his time in Tuesday's hearing to lay out what he called the connections between dark-money groups and legal advocates that have helped support the revolution in the federal judiciary under President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made a simpler argument on Wednesday.

Republicans condemned what they called inappropriate criticism and questioning about Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's Catholic identity as her confirmation hearing opened on Monday. Democrats did not bring up her faith in Monday's hearing.

Barrett is a devout Catholic, alumna of Notre Dame and member of a small, conservative faith group called the People of Praise.

Republicans already have all but won the battle to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court thanks to their control of the Senate, but used Monday's confirmation hearing to stress the importance of a judiciary free from political interference and to defend Barrett against attacks on her religion, even as Democrats avoided the topic.

Democrats are unhappy about nearly everything involving the likely confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. About the only thing that could be worse, from their perspective, is if she helps President Trump secure a second term.

Updated at 11:28 a.m. ET

Democrats on Monday executed an old move from the playbook used by a party when it doesn't control the majority during a big hearing: changing the subject.

Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein of California and her colleagues don't have the votes to stop Judge Amy Coney Barrett from being confirmed to the Supreme Court by the Senate Judiciary Committee or the full chamber. All they have is the time they can talk between members of the majority.

The White House must find a way to keep working and show that the government is still operating notwithstanding illness or the absence of the president, a group of former chiefs of staff said on Friday morning.

Updated at 1:55 p.m. ET

Former FBI Director James Comey says that if he knew today what he knew during the Russia investigation, he would have taken a more skeptical view about a key surveillance request.

Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the subsequent revelations about problems with the surveillance warrant requested against one ex-junior campaign aide to Donald Trump likely would have given him pause in pursuing it.

Updated at 4:49 p.m. ET

Democratic nominee Joe Biden called President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful of transfer of power if he loses the election "a typical Trump distraction."

"I'm confident that [despite] all of the irresponsible, outrageous attacks on voting, we'll have an election in this country as we always have had," Biden said in an interview Friday with MSNBC. "And he'll leave."

Updated at 12:15 a.m. ET

The Senate shouldn't take up the vacancy on the Supreme Court opened by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after voters have expressed their choice in the election, former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday.

The Democratic presidential hopeful kept in lockstep with his colleagues now in the Senate minority, who wasted little time after the announcement of Ginsburg's death in stating their belief that Washington must wait.

Republicans do not agree.

Russia's interference in this year's presidential race relies as heavily on disinformation and agitation as the "active measures" of 2016, but less so on cyberattacks targeting state election infrastructure, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a House panel on Thursday.

Foreign nations can select from many weapons when targeting a democratic election, but two broad strategies boil down to: changing minds or changing votes.

The greatest peril posed to American elections is that the cloud of fear and uncertainty about them will cause citizens to stop believing they matter, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress on Thursday.

Wray was asked in a House Homeland Security Committee hearing about his No. 1 concern as the FBI and other agencies work to quash the manifold foreign threats posed to this and future elections. He said the worst danger isn't something within the power of a foreign government.

The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security condemned acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf's failure to appear in response to a subpoena on Thursday.

The empty chair at the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday can't answer members' questions about the recent goings-on within the Department of Homeland Security.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf rejected a subpoena to appear, but DHS says acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli was prepped in his place.

Peter Strzok omits a few important things from his new memoir, Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump.

Strzok, one of the most notorious FBI officials in history, wants to rehabilitate himself. But he leaves out parts of the story about which most readers probably are most curious — including his relationship with former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.

Strzok and Page carried on an extramarital affair even as they worked at the core of some of the FBI's biggest cases.

Two secret wars are underway simultaneously over attack and defense of the 2020 presidential election. This week, each one broke into the open again.

The first war is an intelligence and national security operation aimed at protecting American election infrastructure, political campaigns and the U.S. information environment from foreign interference. The second one is a political struggle over how much Americans learn about the first.

Updated at 3:07 p.m. ET

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy backed off planned changes to the Postal Service on Tuesday that critics had worried might threaten voting by mail this year, but Democrats say they aren't satisfied and want more answers.

Michigan's Gary Peters, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that had scheduled a hearing with DeJoy on Friday to discuss the planned Postal Service changes, said he wants the session to go ahead and he wants to press DeJoy about what led to this flap.

Americans have the most detailed accounting they've ever received in real time about foreign efforts to interfere in a U.S. election — but, for the public at least, there are still as many questions as answers.

The U.S. intelligence community has made good on earlier promises to release some findings and assessments on foreign interference, including with a historic report last week from the nation's top boss of counterintelligence.

President Trump's allies in the Senate are set to resume a public investigation on Wednesday that aims to tie former Vice President Joe Biden with what Republicans call abuses of power.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wants to question former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates about her actions and those of the Justice Department and FBI as President Barack Obama's era closed and Trump's began.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday mused about delaying this year's election based on unsupported conspiracy theorizing about the integrity of voting during the coronavirus disaster.

Trump used a Twitter post to repeat what has become a pet theme about what he calls the prospect of inaccuracies or fraud with mail-in voting.

Updated at 4:06 p.m. ET

Attorney General William Barr puts the founding principles of the Justice Department "more at risk than at any time in modern history," the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee charged on Tuesday.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., excoriated Barr because he said the attorney general sought conflict with Americans at an unprecedented scale, including via federal law enforcement crackdowns, and has created what Nadler called a special reserve of justice for the well-connected.

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