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Democrats demand Ratcliffe resume in-person congressional election security briefings

Democrats demand Ratcliffe resume in-person congressional election security briefings
© Greg Nash

A group of key House and Senate Democrats led by Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGoogle completes Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: Fringe social networks boosted after Capitol attack | Planned protests spark fears of violence in Trump's final days | Election security efforts likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress US Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots MORE (D-Minn.) on Monday demanded that the intelligence community reverse a decision to halt congressional briefings on election security. 

The concerns were raised days after Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHouse panels open review of Capitol riot Edward Snowden, the media, and the Espionage Act Overnight Defense: Top US general meets with Taliban | House panel launches probe into cyberattack | Army to issue face masks for soldiers in 2021 MORE notified Congress that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) would no longer participate in classified election security briefings and would instead submit written reports.

In a letter to Ratcliffe, the Democratic members, who also included House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenLawmakers briefed on 'horrifying,' 'chilling' security threats ahead of inauguration Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress Capitol Police chief announces resignation after pro-Trump riots MORE (D-Calif.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonActing DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down Security boosted for lawmakers' travel around inauguration: report COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday MORE (D-Miss.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi names 9 impeachment managers Republicans gauge support for Trump impeachment Clyburn blasts DeVos and Chao for 'running away' from 25th Amendment fight MORE (D-N.Y.) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBottom line Trump vetoes bipartisan driftnet fishing bill Dumping Abraham Lincoln? A word of advice to the 'cancel culture' MORE (D-Calif.), demanded the election security briefings “immediately resume.”

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“There are 63 days remaining until the election, and your office has confirmed that Russia and other foreign adversaries are actively working to undermine our democracy,” the members wrote. “As a former Member of Congress, you understand that in order to effectively do our jobs, Congress must receive comprehensive intelligence briefings on critical issues like the security of our elections. In addition to being necessary, these briefings are required by law.”

They pointed to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in making their case. The bill established the ODNI and requires that the ODNI to keep policymakers “fully and completely informed” on intelligence issues.

“We also remind you that the ODNI does not own the intelligence it collects on behalf of the American people, it is a custodian of the information,” the members wrote. “In addition to the power to establish and fund the ODNI, Congress has the power to compel information from it.”

The Democrats cited a recent assessment from a senior ODNI official in calling for the briefings to resume, with the official warning earlier this month that Russian actors were attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections to favor President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE and that Iranian and Chinese actors were interfering to favor former Vice President Biden.

“Information about these serious threats to our elections must be provided to those elected to represent the American people,” the Democrats wrote. 

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The ODNI did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the letter.

Ratcliffe defended the decision to end the in-person briefings during an appearance on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” this week, saying he made the decision following “leaks” of information from the last congressional election security briefing. 

“I reiterated to Congress, look, I'm going to keep you fully and currently informed, as required by the law,” Ratcliffe said. “But I also said, we're not going to do a repeat of what happened a month ago, when I did more than what was required, at the request of Congress, to brief not just the Oversight committees but every member of Congress.”

Ratcliffe criticized public comments by top congressional Democrats in July who accused the ODNI of equating Russian election interference efforts with Chinese and Iranian interference efforts. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFlorida Republicans close ranks with Trump after Capitol siege Confirmation hearing for Biden's DNI pick postponed McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Fla.) said in a statement Saturday that Ratcliffe had assured him the Senate Intelligence Committee would “continue receiving briefings on all oversight topics, including election security.” 

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Rubio added that “congressional oversight of intelligence activities now faces a historic crisis,” accusing members of leaking information from briefings. 

Klobuchar and other Democrats noted in the letter to Ratcliffe on Monday that foreign threats to elections superseded partisan fights. 

“As our nation faces grave threats to our election system from determined adversaries, we must work together to protect our democracy,” the Democratic members wrote. “We are thankful to the brave men and women of the Intelligence Community who do their work without fear or favor to protect our country. We look forward to seeing them in the near future for election security briefings.”