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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 SchumerRon Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-N.Y.), said acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Liberal watchdog group files ethics complaint over Boebert's reimbursements Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides 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 TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' 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: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy Senators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China MORE (Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersAlarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing Troops defending Capitol sickened by undercooked meat: report MORE (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube to restore Trump's account | House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference | Senators introduce legislation to create international tech partnerships House-passed election bill takes aim at foreign interference Klobuchar, Murkowski urge FTC to protect domestic abuse victims' data MORE (Minn.); and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenProgressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks GOP pulling out all the stops to delay COVID-19 package Overnight Health Care: Biden slams Texas, Mississippi for lifting coronavirus restrictions: 'Neanderthal thinking' | Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra |Over 200K sign up for ACA plans during Biden special enrollment period 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 BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants 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 RatcliffeFormer Trump officials eye bids for political office Grenell congratulates Buttigieg on becoming second openly gay Cabinet member Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official 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.

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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.”