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Christopher Krebs, the nation's former top election security official, tells "Axios on HBO" that President Trump is spreading disinformation, which he described as a form of domestic "threat" that he swore an oath to defend against in his job.

  • "The caller was inside the house," Krebs told me. "The president is a big part of the disinformation that's coming out there about the rigged election, but there are absolutely others."

Why it matters: This is the clearest expression from Krebs of how he views his former boss, who fired him for putting out a statement saying that the 2020 election was the most secure in American history.

  • Krebs had refused to co-sign — and in fact publicly contradicted — Trump's conspiracy theories that hacked computer systems flipped the election by switching votes from Trump to Joe Biden.

Between the lines: Asked how he grappled with Trump's false claims while he was still working for him, Krebs said, "One of the questions we asked: 'What would we do if the Russians were doing this?'"

  • "The oath that we pledged coming into office as a federal official is that you uphold and defend the Constitution from threats foreign and domestic. We upheld our oath, carried it out."
  • When asked the obvious follow-up — is President Trump a domestic threat? — Krebs replied: "There is disinformation that he is spreading. I mean, disinformation is one type of threat."

The big picture: Despite receiving death threats from Trump supporters, Krebs is continuing to speak out against Trump's campaign to falsely claim the election was stolen from him. And Krebs is calling on Republican leaders to join him.

  • "Republican leadership needs to stand up and say that, 'This is not, this is just not what we need to be telling the American people right now,'" Krebs said.
  • "We need to be restoring confidence in the election. We need to be restoring confidence in democracy. We all just for some reason think that democracy is resilient and can withstand this sort of attack."
  • "I actually think that democracy's quite fragile. And when the institutions themselves are under attack from the inside, as you said, that's pretty close to an existential issue. And so we need the other parts of, you know, the three-part government to actively push back and actively engage."

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

Off the Rails

Episode 8: The siege

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 8: The siege. An inside account of the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 that ultimately failed to block the certification of the Electoral College. And, finally, Trump's concession.

On Jan. 6, White House deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger entered the West Wing in the mid-afternoon, shortly after his colleagues' phones had lit up with an emergency curfew alert from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

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