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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 PelosiYoung Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' Hillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals 'It's still a BFD': Democrats applaud ruling upholding ObamaCare MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFive takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision Senate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar Schumer vows to only pass infrastructure package that is 'a strong, bold climate bill' MORE (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffCyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSanders: Democrats considering trillion spending package Cyber concerns dominate Biden-Putin summit Senate on collision course over Trump DOJ subpoenas 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 SandersOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Democratic senators press PhRMA over COVID-19 lobbying efforts  MORE (I-Vt.) and of President TrumpDonald TrumpChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report Kim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US Ex-Colorado GOP chair accused of stealing more than 0K from pro-Trump PAC 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.