House Intel Committee votes to give all members access to foreign disinformation evidence

House Intel Committee votes to give all members access to foreign disinformation evidence
© Greg Nash

The House Intelligence Committee voted Wednesday to give all members of the House access to classified information that Democrats say shows evidence of “a concerted foreign interference campaign” against members of Congress ahead of November's elections.

The evidence, compiled in a “classified addendum,” was submitted to the FBI earlier this month by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks Governors air frustrations with Trump on unemployment plans MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTo save the Postal Service, bring it online White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' MORE (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (D-Va.). 

The Democratic leaders pointed to it in requesting an immediate all-members classified briefing from the FBI on election threats. 

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Schiff said in a statement Wednesday that the evidence, which had previously been available to view only for members of the House Intelligence Committee, was being made public for all House lawmakers in response to multiple requests. 

“In the absence of an FBI defensive briefing to the Congress, more than two dozen Members have requested access to the classified addendum to our July 13 letter, which addresses the concrete, specific, and alarming reporting that the congressional intelligence committees have seen regarding our elections,” Schiff said.

“As elected Members of Congress, it is our responsibility to be aware of foreign interference in our elections, and to be prepared to defend against it — particularly as it affects this body,” he added. 

Schiff emphasized that making the evidence public is “no substitute for action by the Administration and intelligence community to more fully brief the American people on what foreign powers may be doing to influence the election and do so in real time.” 

Schiff referenced the Russian interference during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election — which involved Russian agents launching a disinformation campaign on social media and directing cyberattacks at election infrastructure and Democratic National Committee networks — in calling for Congress to be on guard against similar efforts this year.  

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“We must not have another presidential election marred by foreign interference when there was more we could do to prevent it, deter it and expose it to the American people,” he said. 

The classified addendum includes evidence that “draws, in large part, from the Executive Branch’s own reporting and analysis,” according to the Democratic leaders. 

Officials told The New York Times that some of the concerns are related to Russian efforts to spread disinformation related to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he is 'seriously' considering a capital gains tax cut Why Joe Biden is in trouble Harris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick MORE, including information involved in an ongoing investigation carried out by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRon Johnson subpoenas documents from FBI director as part of Russia origins probe Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production MORE (R-Wis.) into the former vice president and his son Hunter Biden.

The FBI did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment on a potential election security briefing to members of Congress. 

The vote came less than a week after William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, put out a statement warning that Russia, Iran and China are attempting to sway the 2020 U.S. elections. 

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Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff and Warner criticized Evanina’s statement for “not going nearly far enough” in describing specific threats from these nations, and for creating “a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks State aid emerges as major hurdle to reviving COVID-19 talks MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioChina sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead PPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  MORE (R-Fla.) shot back in defense of Evanina’s comments, saying in a separate statement that they were “disappointed” by the Democratic concerns. 

“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,” McConnell and Rubio said.