Dems blast Trump for 'conflating' Chinese, Russian election interference claims

Dems blast Trump for 'conflating' Chinese, Russian election interference claims
© Moriah Ratner

A group of top House Democrats on Wednesday blasted President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE for "conflating" allegations of election interference, stating that a new intelligence assessment does not support his claims that China has attempted to meddle in U.S. elections.

Five Democrats, who are committee ranking members, said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided their respective committees with an unclassified intelligence assessment on election security last week, which they say does not support Trump or Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceSunday shows preview: 2020 candidates look to South Carolina The Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada MORE's claims about China's interference efforts.

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“No amount of foreign interference in our elections is acceptable. However, conflating the interference by Russian and Chinese actors is irresponsible and demonstrates the White House’s partisan approach to the unprecedented Russian actions to undermine our democracy," the lawmakers wrote. 

"It is reprehensible that two years after the 2016 elections, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have failed to tackle Russian election interference with any credibility.”

Reps. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Intel officials warned House lawmakers Russia is interfering to get Trump reelected: NYT Top Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities MORE (D-Miss.), Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTop Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities House to vote next week on bill to create women's history museum The Hill's Morning Report - Icy moments between Trump, Pelosi mark national address MORE (D-Md.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Dem senator met with Iranian foreign minister | Meeting draws criticism from right | Lawmakers push back at Pentagon funding for wall Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Top Armed Services Republican: Pentagon using .8B on border wall 'requires Congress to take action' MORE (D-Wash.) and Robert Brady (D-Penn.) — who sit on the House Homeland Security, Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Administration committees respectively — all signed onto a statement that said nothing in the DHS assessment convinces them otherwise that the administration's "statements on this issue are driven by partisan politics rather than the facts."

A spokesperson for DHS described Democrats' statement as "disappointing," stating that the assessment does not provide the whole picture.

“It is disappointing that some Members of Congress are choosing to politicize intelligence and have apparently failed to read important information transmitted to them," DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton said in a statement to The Hill. "While this was a single unclassified analytic product and does not represent all reporting on the issue, it quite clearly and directly discussed both Chinese and Russian threats."

Houlton said DHS will "continue to provide appropriate notifications to Congress on the subject," but emphasized that the lawmakers should take the information "seriously" rather than making them into "partisan talking points."

The Democrats' statement comes after Trump has doubled down in recent weeks about his Chinese election interference claims.

“Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election,” Trump said during a speech at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York last month. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”

And while critics quickly pointed out that there is no evidence of China engaging in a hacking and disinformation campaign against the U.S. like Russia did in 2016, Trump doubled down on his claims that China “is a bigger problem” in terms of election interference than Russia during an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes" earlier this week.

Pence has also backed the president on this claim, stating that Russia's efforts to interfere in U.S. elections “pales in comparison” with that of the Chinese, which he described as “an unprecedented effort to influence public opinion.”