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"We remain on high alert": Acting DHS secretary on election security

With just seven days left until Election Day, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, sat down with CBS News for an exclusive interview to discuss what Americans can expect and prepare for during and after November 3.

Election security has been on the minds of many after top intelligence officials announced last week that Iran and Russia had taken actions to try to compromise the election and had obtained some voter registration data. They said spoof emails "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump" were sent out as well as videos implying people could cast fraudulent ballots "even from overseas."

In response, Wolf said the threat from Iran and Russia has been mitigated, but intelligence officials remain vigilant.

"We understand what they're doing. We've called them out on that," Wolf said. "We remain on high alert. So will that-- is that to say that they won't try anything else? Absolutely not. We are anticipating that they might."

Nonetheless, Wolf said that Americans can be confident about the security of their votes.

"Absolutely. Every American who's voted either early voting or plans to do that on Election Day should be confident their vote that they cast will be counted," Wolf explained. "What we've done over the last three and a half to four years has really been night and day to what we saw in 2016 in the relationships we had with state election officials. What we saw seven to 10 days ago, where we've identified some nation-states acting nefariously is part of that effort. So the system is working. We were able to call that out. We're able to communicate to voters and state election officials what was going on so that people can make their own decisions."

Over the last few months, multiple cities across the country have seen incidents of violence related to a number of issues, including racial inequality and claims of excessive force from law enforcement. As we hit the final days leading up to the election, Wolf said the department continues to plan for any type of unrest and protection of federal property.

"I'll be very similar to the plan that we've-- had throughout the summer," said Wolf. "We're gonna make sure that we continue to protect over 9,000 federal facilities across the country. It's what we were doing in Portland, in Seattle and other places. So if there's civil unrest that breaks out — in certain cities and it's directed towards the federal property, because we're seeing, you know, obviously, the U.S. government-- obviously, we'll have a role there."

Election experts have reiterated this year that results may take longer to be made official, especially because of the large number of voters casting their ballots by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic. As for Election Day and its results or lack of them, Wolf offered this advice to the public: "stay patient."

"There will be some states, not all states, but there will be likely some that we will not know on Election Night what the result is," said Wolf. "Again, remain patient. And again, be mindful of whatever you're seeing on social media. Get your information from trusted officials. Don't believe — what we are likely to see — misinformation campaigns."

Nonetheless, even with the rising number of COVID-19 cases in many states, Wolf told CBS News he believes it is still safe to go to the polls in person, but urged state and local officials to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch more of Wolf's interview on election security Wednesday on "CBS This Morning" at 7 a.m.

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