Ratcliffe refuses to say whether Russian election interference favored Trump

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R-Texas), President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE’s nominee for director of national intelligence (DNI), refused to say Tuesday whether he agreed with the Intelligence Community’s (IC) assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections to help the president. 

Both the IC and the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections to favor Trump. The House Intelligence Committee’s Republican majority concluded in 2018 that Russia interfered in the elections, but did not conclude this was to favor Trump, an analysis Democratic members of the committee disagreed with. 

When asked about his thoughts on these conclusions by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerVirginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests Trump asserts his power over Republicans Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support MORE (D-Va.) during his nomination hearing, Ratcliffe would not commit to one side. 

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Ratcliffe said that while he had “no reason to dispute” the Senate panel’s findings, he also would not dispute the House Intelligence Committee’s conclusions, a panel on which Ratcliffe serves. 

“I respect both committees, but I have not seen the underlying intelligence to tell me why there is a difference of opinion between the two committees,” Ratcliffe said. 

Ratcliffe did agree that Russian interference took place in 2016, and he said that he expects Russia to remain a threat to elections.

“The most important takeaway of the findings I think of both committees is that as Russia continues to sow discord that they have not been successful at changing votes or the outcome of the election, and we need to remain committed to making sure that does not happen in the future,” Ratcliffe said. 

Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, alongside the Senate Intelligence panel and the IC, concluded that Russia launched a sweeping and systematic campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election that involved social media disinformation efforts and targeting of election infrastructure in order to favor Trump. 

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The Senate Intelligence Committee last month released the fourth volume of its investigation into Russian interference in 2016, reaffirming the IC’s findings. Warner said Tuesday that the committee hoped to release the fifth and final volume of its investigation before August, which is expected to address counterintelligence findings around Russian interference. 

Russian election interference has been a tense issue for leaders of the IC. Former DNI Daniel Coats consistently supported IC findings around Russian interference, pushing back against Trump at times. 

Former acting DNI Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireTrump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down Top intel official leaving post Grenell announces creation of intelligence community 'cyber executive' MORE reportedly stepped down from the position after Trump took extreme issue with the IC briefing the House Intelligence Committee, including Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff uses Tiananmen anniversary to condemn Trump's response to protests Flynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation MORE (D-Calif.), on Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 elections. 

More recently, Schiff accused current acting DNI Richard Grenell of allowing IC staff to “interfere with the production and briefing of intelligence information” on election security that was given to Congress during a March 10 briefing. Grenell later pushed back against this charge. 

Ratcliffe said Tuesday that he would make addressing election interference a “priority” alongside investigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus if confirmed as DNI.

"I will do everything to make it my highest priority if confirmed to do everything possible that we have those safe and secure and credible elections in 2020," Ratcliffe said.