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Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections

Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections
© Greg Nash

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said intelligence detailing Russian efforts to influence the 2020 elections should be declassified and made available to the public before ballots are cast.

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Blumenthal wrote that he reviewed classified information on the Capitol this week and concluded that the November elections are “under attack.” He went on to say he was “shocked” by what he learned and “appalled” that the information has not been made available to voters. 

“The facts are chilling. I believe the American public needs and deserves to know them. The information should be declassified immediately,” Blumenthal wrote. 

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The Connecticut Democrat said he still believes in proper classification of information that can protect sources and methods but accused the Trump administration of politicizing intelligence by overclassifying information. He claimed that overprotecting this kind of information keeps voters in the dark about attempts by foreign powers to interfere in the elections. 

“Unnecessary classification politicizes the national security apparatus and, in this case, keeps the American people in the dark about efforts by foreign adversaries to destroy the bedrock of the nation’s democracy: free and fair elections,” he said.

“The Trump administration’s refusal to share with the American public any information about the Russian threat to the November election is simply unacceptable,” he added. 

Blumenthal also went after Republicans on Capitol Hill, saying they’ve already politicized intelligence with probes into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Scalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration Sidney Powell withdraws 'kraken' lawsuit in Georgia MORE and accusing them of spreading a Russian disinformation campaign.

“Instead, by keeping the facts cloaked in secrecy, the Trump administration and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill invite disinformation and give deception a toehold in the American electorate. And it now appears that such disinformation and deception are gaining a toehold in Congress as well,” he wrote.

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Blumenthal even name-checked Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, noting his probe into Biden and accusing him of receiving documents from the son of a former KGB officer.

Johnson, who has become a close ally of the White House and has received flak from Democrats who say his investigation is meant to hurt Biden in an election year, fired back Saturday on Twitter, accusing his Democratic colleague of “twisting” classified briefings. 

“It is a flat-out lie that I received the documents from Ukrainians that Democrats keep claiming. And they know it. It is unconscionable that Democrats and the press continue to report it,” he said in a lengthy Twitter thread. 

“The only ones responsible for furthering Russian disinformation to interfere in our election are the Democrats in Congress and the Biden campaign, and the media that is willingly amplifying their lies. They should all be ashamed,” he added.

The back-and-forth between Blumenthal and Johnson comes after months of Democrats voicing concerns that the government is not doing enough to address the threats of foreign election meddling. Many of the lawmakers are racked with memories over Russia’s complex campaign in 2016 against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS CNN poll: Melania Trump leaving office as least popular first lady ever MORE.

Those concerns were only elevated after William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, identified China, Russia and Iran as the three top foreign threats to the U.S. presidential race, warning that they are trying to “sway voters’ preferences and perspectives,” create conflict and “undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process.”

Evanina said intelligence had concluded that China does not want Trump to win reelection because it considers him “unpredictable,” and Iran is trying to “undermine” U.S. democratic institutions and the president.

He also said that officials had determined that Russia is trying to “denigrate” Biden, noting the Obama administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for opponents to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussia's Putin and Navalny collide; who will survive? Former Trump intel chief Coats introduces Biden nominee Haines at hearing Clinton: I would love to see if Trump 'was talking to Putin the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol' MORE.

Trump refuted the intelligence Friday that Russia is seeking to help him, saying he’s “the last person Russia wants to see in office.”

“I don’t care what anybody says,” he shot back when pressed by a reporter.