Pelosi, Schiff pan director of national intelligence for canceling election security briefings
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, panned the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Saturday for canceling all election security briefings for Congress.
The two Democrats said the ODNI canceled briefings scheduled for September on foreign election interference and informed them it will hold no others, likely infuriating lawmakers who have pushed the Trump administration to be more transparent about intelligence regarding threats to the November elections.
“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” Pelosi and Schiff said in a joint statement. “This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian. And the American people have both the right and the need to know that another nation, Russia, is trying to help decide who their president should be.”
The ODNI did tell congressional leaders that it will provide written “finished intelligence products.”
“I believe this approach helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information ODNI provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on elections security, foreign malign influence, and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized,” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe wrote in letters to congressional committee heads. “It will also better protect our sources and methods and most sensitive intelligence from additional unauthorized disclosures or misuse.”
Democrats in both chambers of Congress have ramped up their warnings about interference from Russia and other nations in this fall’s elections, still fuming over what they say were insufficient efforts to warn voters about meddling from Moscow in the 2016 presidential race.
Top U.S. counterintelligence officials declared earlier this month that Russia is using a range of measures to “primarily denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden.
William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said a few nations are seeking to “sway voters’ preferences and perspectives,” sow discord and “undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process.”
“Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer. We are primarily concerned about the ongoing and potential activity by China, Russia and Iran,” Evanina said.
While the recognition marked a victory at the time for Democrats who had pressed the intelligence community to be more transparent about foreign threats in the final sprint to Election Day, Democrats said the scrapping of the briefings marked an effort by the administration to shield information about exactly how foreign powers plan to meddle.
“This is shameful and—coming only weeks before the election—demonstrates that the Trump Administration is engaged in a politicized effort to withhold election-related information from Congress and the American people at the precise moment that greater transparency and accountability is required. This keeps both the American people and the Congress in the dark, when both are in need of the information,” they said.
“The DNI has a responsibility to provide these briefings and answer questions before Congress. Failing to do so would be an abdication of the Intelligence Community’s duty to keep Congress fully informed of intelligence matters and to protect our democracy,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) added in a later statement.
Trump throughout his tenure in office has been notoriously sensitive to claims Russia meddled in the 2016 race and has rebutted claims that Moscow wants him to win this November, brushing off the intelligence announced this month, saying, “I don’t care what anybody says.”
This article was updated and corrected at 9:29 p.m.