The FBI delayed contacting the Democratic National Committee about the hacking by Russia of the party’s servers after ex-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was notified of the incident. He told a congressional panel on Wednesday the delay was because of Donald Trump.

Johnson explained the incident coincided with the emergence of a 2005 tape in which the real estate billionaire bragged about sexually assaulting women. The scandal distracted the public so the department’s warnings about Russian hacking into databases of voter registration did not get more attention.

Not taking sides in the election

Even though Johnson was appointed by then-President Barack Obama, the Department did not issue further warnings about the Russia hacking because he did not want to be perceived as having taken sides in the election. The campaign was characterized by a heated debate on various national issues, Reuters reported.

At that time, Trump, the Republican candidate, was accusing government agencies of rigging the election, Johnson explained. It prevented the Homeland Security Department and the FBI from talking about the Russian hacking. Gizmodo reported.

Johnson suggested designating the country’s election system as critical infrastructure. It would have given states faster access to assistance from the department if there was a cyber-attack.

Many state election officials, however, rejected his suggestion because they viewed it as an attempt by the federal government to intrude into the states which had the exclusive responsibility to run the election.

Some local governments, specifically 33 states, and 36 cities accepted the department’s offer to use Homeland Security equipment to scan their voting systems for election-related vulnerabilities, Johnson said.

Hackers targeted 21 states

Jeanette Manfra, the acting undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at the Department, told the Senate Intelligence Committee the DHS has evidence the election-related systems of 21 states were targeted by Russian hackers, the New York Post reported. She did not identify the 21 states, but Illinois and Arizona reported their systems were breached during the 2016 election.

In January 2017, Johnson arranged to place election equipment in 16 infrastructure sectors identified as critical. The 16 included embassies, military installations, and national laboratories. In a statement released on Jan. 6, the department said vote tabulation and polling locations would get higher priority for cybersecurity assistance.

He said the cyber-attacks will get worse before the situation improves. Johnson proposed better education about phishing attacks for state and local officials and placing a federal officer at the DHS to take charge of the protection.