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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 PelosiLawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Andrew Yang condemns attacks against Asian Americans Congress in lockdown: Will we just 'get used to it'? MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra 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 SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China MORE (D-Va.).

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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.” 

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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.

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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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food 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.