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Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill

Reports this week that Russia is attempting to interfere in the 2020 race sent congressional Democrats reeling, with many lashing out at Republicans and blaming President TrumpDonald John TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' MORE.

The New York Times reported Thursday that intelligence officials recently briefed the House Intelligence Committee about Russia interfering in the presidential race in an effort to get Trump reelected.

A day later, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez says Democrats must focus on winning White House for Biden All fracked up: Biden's Keystone State breakdown The Memo: Five reasons why Trump could upset the odds MORE (I-Vt.) said he had been briefed on similar attempts to meddle in the elections, with The Washington Post reporting the Kremlin has sought to help his White House bid.

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“All Members of Congress should condemn the President’s reported efforts to dismiss threats to the integrity of our democracy & to politicize our intel community,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBrown says Biden's first moves as president should be COVID relief, voting rights Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to positive tests among Pence aides Pelosi dismisses talk of White House compromise on stimulus: They 'keep moving the goal post' MORE (D-Calif.) tweeted after the Times story.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerGraham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D-N.Y.) also weighed in, saying Republicans would “rather let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin win than stand up to President Trump.”

Criticisms from Democrats persisted even after reports of Russia attempting to help Sanders in the primary.

“If Donald Trump perceives that Sen. Sanders is his best general election opponent, and the Russians according to what Sanders just said are attempting to help Sanders, that means that the president and the Russians are aligned in who they want the president’s opponent to be upcoming in the fall,” Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellGraham says SC people of color can go anywhere in the state but 'need to be conservative, not liberal' President Trump, Melania Trump test positive for COVID-19 House in near-unanimous vote affirms peaceful transfer of power MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Community and former presidential candidate, told MSNBC on Friday night.

Trump pushed back on the Times report Friday, claiming it was part of a “misinformation campaign” against him led by Democrats.

“Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa,” Trump tweeted, referring to delayed results from the Iowa caucuses. “Hoax number 7!”

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But former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, who worked in the Trump administration, said during a speech Friday that Russia was indeed “trying to interfere in 2020,” and that the Justice Department and the FBI are constantly “on guard” against those efforts.

Sanders, meanwhile, directed his response to Putin.

“I don't care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement Friday. “My message to Putin is clear: stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, particularly those who were not part of the House Intelligence Committee briefing last week, are expecting to get more information from intelligence officials about Moscow’s efforts during congressional briefings next month. Pelosi said House lawmakers will receive a briefing on election security March 10, the same day the Senate will be briefed.

A spokesperson for Pelosi did not immediately respond to The Hill’s inquiry about which intelligence officials would be involved in the briefing.

Congress received an all-lawmaker briefing on election security in July from top administration officials, including now-former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAvoiding the 1876 scenario in November Democrat asks intelligence director if Trump's personal debt is security problem FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE, former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Election security has been seen as a touchy subject in the White House ever since Trump took office, and Coats was not the first administration official to receive pushback for bringing up the issue. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenWatchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT More than million in DHS contracts awarded to firm of acting secretary's wife: report DHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law MORE reportedly focused on it during her time in the Trump administration, but according to The New York Times was told not to discuss the matter around Trump.

Russian interference concerns have been repeatedly brought up since the 2016 elections. U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee and the report compiled by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, concluded that Russian agents engaged in a sweeping interference campaign designed to benefit Trump in 2016.

Those efforts included disinformation campaigns on social media and the targeting of state election systems. Agents also hacked into the Democratic National Committee and the emails of top aides on the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris lists out 'racist' actions by Trump in '60 minutes' interview: 'It all speaks for itself' Trump has list of top intelligence officials he'll fire if he wins reelection: report Clinton says most Republicans want to see Trump gone but can't say it publicly: report MORE.

Clinton on Friday alleged that Trump wants Russia to interfere in the 2020 race.

“Putin’s Puppet is at it again, taking Russian help for himself,” Clinton tweeted. “He knows he can’t win without it. And we can’t let it happen.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonLong-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election House chairman asks Secret Service for briefing on COVID-19 safeguards for agents Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments MORE (D-Miss.), whose panel has held multiple hearings on election security over the past year, said in a statement that Trump was “in denial” about Russian interference in 2016, and that the president's “ego cannot accept that Russia interfered on his behalf.”

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“The President is not only refusing to defend against foreign interference, he’s inviting it,” Thompson added.

Wray, in testimony this month before the House Judiciary Committee, said Russian influence campaigns “never stopped” after 2016. On the hacking front, a top Kentucky election official testified this week that election systems in the state are "routinely" targeted by foreign actors, including those from Russia, Venezuela and North Korea.

Efforts to pass election security bills have stalled in the Senate. Democrats have repeatedly tried to force votes on the measures, but have been blocked by Republicans.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Trump looms over Ernst's tough reelection fight in Iowa Democratic senator votes against advancing Amy Coney Barrett nomination while wearing RBG mask MORE (R-Ky.) backed a bipartisan effort in December to appropriate $425 million to states to bolster election security efforts. That legislation was later signed into law by Trump.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill in a statement Friday that he thinks top Republicans are “totally unconcerned” about potential Russian interference.

“At some point inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence of a threat is more than negligence, it’s complicity,” Wyden said.