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 BidenBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins 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 JohnsonSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose 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 ClintonThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close 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 PutinFormer GOP lawmakers on endorsing Biden: Trump is no Republican, 'lacks basic self-control' Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Former intelligence agency director Robert Cardillo speaks out against 'erratic' Trump 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.