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Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts

Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts
© Bonnie Cash

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate on Monday requested a classified counterintelligence briefing from the FBI, citing concerns that members of Congress are being targeted by a "concerted foreign interference campaign" ahead of the November elections.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBiden holds off punishing Saudi crown prince, despite US intel Overnight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing US intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Va.) sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting the all-members briefing take place before the August congressional recess.

“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” the Democratic leaders wrote.  

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A congressional official told The Hill that the request was made based on a “classified addendum” included in the letter to Wray that “draws, in large part, from the Executive Branch’s own reporting and analysis.”

“The counterintelligence experts at the FBI must provide the full Congress with a defensive counterintelligence briefing on these threats before the August recess,” the congressional official added. 

The Democratic leaders asked that the FBI provide details of the briefing by later in the day on Monday, citing the “ongoing nature of these threats” for the quick turnaround.

“Given the seriousness and specificity of these threats, as members of congressional leadership and the congressional intelligence committees we believe it is imperative that the FBI provide a classified defensive briefing to all Members of Congress and that the briefing draw on all-source intelligence information and analysis, consistent with due regard for the protection of sensitive intelligence sources and methods,” the leaders wrote to Wray. 

The FBI said it "received the letter" but declined to comment further. Copies of the letter were also sent to the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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The House and Senate last participated in all members briefings on election security issues in February, which took place following reports that Russian agents were interfering in the 2020 elections to favor the campaigns of former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (I-Vt.) and of President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE.

Ahead of these briefings, Trump tweeted that members shouldn’t “expect too much" due to Schiff’s involvement. 

According to The New York Times, the information on interference in the Trump campaign came from a separate classified briefing to the House Intelligence Committee. Former acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireJudge dismisses Nunes's defamation suit against Washington Post Retired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts MORE stepped down from the position following the briefing, with Trump reportedly taking issue with Schiff’s involvement. 

The focus on election security has been amplified following Russia's interference effort in the 2016 elections, during which Russian agents targeted infrastructure in all 50 states, launched a sweeping disinformation campaign on social media designed to favor Trump and hacked into Democratic National Committee networks.