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Top House Democrats demand Ratcliffe hold previously scheduled election security briefings

Top House Democrats demand Ratcliffe hold previously scheduled election security briefings
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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiVaccinated lawmakers no longer required to wear masks on House floor Simmering Democratic tensions show signs of boiling over Pelosi signals no further action against Omar MORE (D-Calif.) and key committee chairmen handling oversight of the intelligence community demanded on Tuesday that Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeFive things to know about the new spotlight on UFOs Extraordinary explanations for UFOs look increasingly plausible Sunday shows preview: US hails Israel-Hamas cease-fire; 'vast differences' remain between Biden, GOP on infrastructure MORE reinstate election security briefings that had been planned for this month. 

Pelosi, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says DOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Sights and sounds from Biden's UK visit MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing defense spending, warned in a letter to Ratcliffe that they would "consider the full range of tools available to compel compliance" if the briefings don't resume. 

"Oversight of elections security, foreign malign influence, and election interference is of the highest priority for the U.S. House of Representatives as the 2020 election approaches," they wrote. "If you are unwilling to resume election-related intelligence briefings to Congress, we will have no choice but to consider the full range of tools available to compel compliance."

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Schiff said during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that it's possible the House could subpoena intelligence officials to testify on election interference. He said a subpoena "is certainly one of the tools that we may use," but noted that the decision would ultimately be up to Pelosi. 

Pelosi, Schiff and Visclosky demanded that Ratcliffe hold a previously scheduled briefing on Sept. 17 to the House Intelligence Committee, which they noted had been "proactively offered" by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Aug. 10. They also called for reinstating a series of briefings for all House members that were tentatively scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25.

The ODNI did not immediately return a request for comment.

Ratcliffe notified Congress on Friday that the intelligence community will replace in-person congressional briefings on election security leading up to the November elections with written updates. He maintained that written updates would help avoid unauthorized leaks of sensitive information.

The announcement came after William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, issued a statement in August detailing election security threats, including that Russia and Kremlin-linked actors are trying to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPutin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting How the infrastructure bill can help close the digital divide Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE to boost President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says Putin says he's optimistic about working with Biden ahead of planned meeting Biden meets Queen Elizabeth for first time as president MORE's candidacy, as they did in 2016. 

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Democrats decried the change to written intelligence reports instead of in-person briefings, arguing that lawmakers should have the opportunity to hear directly from intelligence officials.

"Written finished intelligence products are no substitute for intelligence briefings. Only through regular and in-depth briefings can Members of Congress, as the people’s elected representatives, hear directly from our career intelligence professionals, probe and scrutinize the underlying reporting and basis for intelligence assessments, learn what steps the United States is taking to thwart foreign interference, and ensure that the intelligence judgments are not being influenced or skewed for political purposes," Pelosi, Schiff and Visclosky wrote. 

A group of key House and Senate committee leaders also demanded that Ratcliffe resume in-person briefings in a separate letter on Monday. 

“We also remind you that the ODNI does not own the intelligence it collects on behalf of the American people, it is a custodian of the information,” they wrote. “In addition to the power to establish and fund the ODNI, Congress has the power to compel information from it.”