Cybersecurity

Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama

The administration is gearing up to brief lawmakers on election security as the country wades deeper into the 2020 primaries. 

 

Both the House and Senate will be briefed, separately, on March 10, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a Senate aide. 

 

The briefings will come a week after Super Tuesday, when primary voters in more than a dozen states will head to the polls. On March 10, voters in six more states will cast ballots. 

 

The announcement of the briefings come as President Trump's shake up of top intelligence community positions has sparked fierce criticism from Democrats and some national security professionals, and after reports that intelligence leaders have told lawmakers that Russia is again seeking to aid Trump's campaign efforts.

 

"American voters should decide American elections - not Vladimir Putin. All Members of Congress should condemn the President's reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy & to politicize our intel community," Pelosi said in a tweet on Thursday. 

 

Trump announced earlier this week that he was tapping U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to be the next acting director of national intelligence. Grenell will be Trump's second acting Director of National Intelligence since Dan Coats stepped down last year. Joseph Maguire has served in the role since August but is required by law to leave the position by March 12.

 

Grenell was immediately panned by top Democrats including Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

 

"The President has selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation's intelligence community in an acting capacity," Warner said in a statement.

 

The drama around Maguire's exit skyrocketed Thursday after The Washington Post reported that Trump erupted at the acting Director of National Intelligence over concerns about Maguire's staff's loyalty.

 

Trump decided against nominating Maguire for the post on a permanent basis after learning a member of his staff, Shelby Pierson, gave a classified briefing on Thursday to the House Intelligence Committee regarding election security, people familiar with the matter told the Post.

 

During the briefing, intelligence officials warned House lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get Trump reelected, The New York Times reported Thursday.

 

Trump reportedly worried Democrats would use the intelligence information against him, particularly citing concerns that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.), the lead House impeachment manger, was present during the briefing.

 

Trump argued Friday that Democrats were behind the leaked discussions and called the reports that intelligence officials informed Congress of Russian interference in the 2020 race to help his reelection a "misinformation campaign."

 

 

Election security has emerged as a political hotspot during the Trump administration. Congress included an additional $425 million in election money in a government funding package passed late last year.

 

But Senate Democrats have repeatedly gone to the floor to try to pass additional legislation, including a requirement that campaigns contact the FBI and Federal Election Commission over offers of foreign assistance.

 

Republicans blocked three election security bills earlier this month on the Senate floor.

 

"Republicans keep blocking election security bills in the Senate, and now we know why: They'd rather let Putin win than stand up to President Trump," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted after the Times story broke.

Outbrain