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Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference

Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference
© Greg Nash

A group of key Senate Democrats on Thursday demanded that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publicly release a bulletin that said a foreign actor is working to undermine faith in voting by mail this fall.

The senators, who included Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (D-N.Y.), said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA, accept new applicants Former cyber official condemns Trump attorney for threats against Krebs, details ouster MORE should release the "widely distributed" Sept. 3 analysis compiled by the agency’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A).

“This document demonstrates that a foreign actor is attempting to undermine faith in the US electoral system, particularly vote-by-mail systems, in a manner that is consistent with the rhetoric being used by President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE, Attorney General [William] Barr, and others,” the senators wrote in a letter to Wolf.

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“The document has been marked ‘Unclassified/For Official Use Only,’ meaning that its release would not pose a risk to sources and methods and that it has already been widely distributed around the country through unclassified channels,” the senators added. “It is now critical and urgent that the American people have access to this document so that they can understand the context of Trump’s statements and actions.”

Other lawmakers who signed the letter include Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security Defense policy bill would create new cyber czar position MORE (Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersLawmakers pressure leaders to reach COVID-19 relief deal Republican John James concedes in Michigan Senate race Hillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk MORE (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate committee advances bill for national Latino museum Senate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Scammers step up efforts to target older Americans during pandemic MORE (Minn.); and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

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

The document the senators were referring to was likely the assessment, first reported by ABC News last month, where I&A determined that Russian media and other groups were intentionally “amplifying” concerns around mail-in voting to undermine U.S. elections.

The bulletin noted that the efforts have been ongoing since March and that Russian state media has participated in the effort.

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“We assess that Russia is likely to continue amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail and shifting voting processes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine public trust in the electoral process,” I&A wrote in the bulletin, which was sent to federal and state law enforcement partners but not rolled out publicly.

ABC News also reported that DHS had withheld a July bulletin that warned of Russian efforts to spread disinformation alluding to the “poor mental health” of Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Federal student loan payment suspension extended another month Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week MORE in order to sway the election.

A spokesperson for DHS told The Hill last month that the July bulletin was not disseminated to recipients because it "lacked the necessary context and evidence for broader dissemination.” Wolf said during a Fox News interview at the time that he hoped to “see that report out soon.”

Election security concerns have increased over the past two months after a senior official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) publicly rolled out an assessment warning that Russia was interfering in the presidential election in favor of President Trump, while China and Iran were interfering in favor of Biden.

Congress has received multiple classified briefings on election security from top administration officials in recent months, though Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Pompeo imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over 'intimidation' tactics Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security MORE sparked criticism in August when he announced that ODNI would no longer provide in-person election security briefings to all lawmakers and would instead submit written statements and continue in-person meetings for a select group.

Ratcliffe was among the officials who briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee last week on the election threat landscape, a briefing that came the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee received a classified briefing on election cybersecurity preparedness from top Pentagon officials.

Democrats, including Wyden, emerged from those briefings calling for information on election threats to be declassified for the American public to see.

“I think that clearly the American people as of now are not going to get what they need,” Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill last week. “I am not confident that the American people will get what they need to know in terms of information about the major issues in front of us, and taking steps to change it.”