Democrats say intel assessment on foreign election inference doesn't go 'far enough'

Democrats say intel assessment on foreign election inference doesn't go 'far enough'
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House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCapitol riot defendants have started a jail newsletter: report On The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.) and other key Democratic leaders in Congress condemned an intelligence assessment released Friday that warned of foreign election interference for “not going nearly far enough.”

Their concerns were raised hours after William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), released a statement warning that Russia, Iran and China were targeting U.S. elections through disinformation and hacking efforts.

“The statement just released by NCSC Director William Evanina does not go nearly far enough in arming the American people with the knowledge they need about how foreign powers are seeking to influence our political process,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators say they have deal on 'major issues' in infrastructure talks On The Money: Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds | Trump tells Republicans to walk away | GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden MORE (D-Va.).


Evanina cited Russia, Iran and China as being the key threats to the U.S. election this year, warning that Russia and Iran were spreading disinformation that could undermine the democratic process, and China was using influence efforts to “shape the policy environment” in the United States that could impact the presidential race.

“The statement gives a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together,” the Democratic leaders said.

“The statement, moreover, fails to fully delineate the goal, nature, scope and capacity to influence our election, information the American people must have as we go into November.”

The Democratic leaders, who have all been briefed in recent years on election threats against the U.S., had particular concerns around how Evanina described Russian interference efforts.

The top intelligence community official had warned that Russia was spreading “disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process and denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment’ in America.” 


The Democratic leaders described that statement as “almost meaningless,” adding that it “omits much on a subject of immense importance.”

“Almost exactly four years ago, we first observed the Russians engaging in covert actions designed to influence the presidential race in favor of Donald Trump and to sow discord in the United States,” the Democrats said. “Now, the Russians are once again trying to influence the election and divide Americans, and these efforts must be deterred, disrupted and exposed.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment on the criticism.

Evanina's statement on election interference efforts in the lead up to the November presidential election came days after the same Democratic leaders sent a request to the FBI asking for an all-members classified briefing on current foreign threats to elections.

In asking for the briefing, they cited concerns that members of Congress are being targeted by a "concerted foreign interference campaign" ahead of the November elections.

On Friday, they asked that beyond just briefing members of Congress that the FBI and the federal government also put out a “far more concrete and specific statement” to help Americans understand the true scope of the threats to elections.

We can trust the American people with knowing what to do with the information they receive and making those decisions for themselves,” the Democratic leaders said. “But they cannot do so if they are kept in the dark about what our adversaries are doing, and how they are doing it. When it comes to American elections, Americans must decide.” 

According to U.S. intelligence agencies and former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, Russian actors interfered in the 2016 elections by targeting election infrastructure in all 50 states, launching a sweeping disinformation campaign on social media in favor of now-President TrumpDonald TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE, and hacking into the networks of the Democratic National Committee. 

While this level of interference was not seen during the 2018 midterm elections, federal officials have warned in recent weeks that they expect to see some level of attempted foreign interference in the presidential election this year.