McConnell, Rubio defend senior intel official over remarks on election interference

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios House rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE (R-Fla.) defended a senior intelligence official over an assessment released Friday that warned of foreign election interference from Russia, Iran and China. 

McConnell and Rubio also slammed Democrats for their statement claiming William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), of not going “far enough in alarming the American people'' in the assessment. 

“We are disappointed by the statement from Senator [Chuck] Schumer, Senator [Mark] Warner, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, and Representative [Adam] Schiff about Bill Evanina,” Rubio and McConnell said in a joint statement Sunday, referring to the statement released by the Democrats on Friday. 

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“Evanina is a career law enforcement and intelligence professional with extensive experience in counterintelligence. His reputation as a straight-shooter immune from politics is well-deserved,” they added. 

The Republicans said that the U.S. is “safer” with Evanina and his team on watch. 

“We believe the statement baselessly impugns his character and politicized intelligence matters. Their manufactured complaint undercuts Director Evanina’s nonpartisan public outreach to increase Americans’ awareness of foreign influence campaigns right at the beginning of his efforts,” they said. 

Evanina released a statement Friday warning that Russia, Iran and China were targeting U.S. elections through disinformation and hacking efforts. 

McConnell and Rubio said the threat still remains, but they are confident that the U.S. is “far better prepared than four years ago.” 

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The Democrats said Evanina’s statement is “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.”

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 election by targeting election infrastructure, as well as by launching a sweeping disinformation campaign on social media in favor of now-President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE and hacking into the networks of the Democratic national Committee. 

Federal officials have recently warned in recent weeks that they expect to see some level of attempted foreign interference in November’s presidential election.