Even as Russia is once again being named as manipulating this year’s presidential election to assist President Donald Trump, his administration is ending the long-standing tradition of congressional briefings.
The United States’ top intelligence office has told lawmakers it will end in-person briefings on election security because it is worried about potential leaks, officials say.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said this month that Russia, which orchestrated a hacking campaign to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor, was trying to “denigrate” Trump’s 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. And it said China and Iran were hoping Trump was not re-elected.
Our intelligence officials have said there’s an active, ongoing assault on our democratic process from Russia.
President Trump is simply using John Ratcliffe to hide the ugly truth from the American people—that the President is again receiving the help of the Kremlin. https://t.co/laRyggtfFp
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 29, 2020
The move drew heated rejoinders from Democratic lawmakers who have focused on foreign efforts to sway the presidential election in 2016 and again this year.
President Donald Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, notified the House and Senate intelligence panels on Friday that the office would send written reports instead, giving lawmakers less opportunity to press for details as the November 3 election approaches.
An official in Ratcliffe’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was “concerned about unauthorised disclosures of sensitive information following recent briefings”.
“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement issued on Saturday.
Ratcliffe’s office had offered to hold in-person briefings for the House and Senate oversight panels next month, even after concerns surfaced about leaks from previous meetings, a House committee official said. It later rescinded the offer.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican and acting chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, said in a statement late on Saturday he had spoken to Ratcliffe who “stated unequivocally” to him that he would fulfil the intelligence community’s obligations to keep members of Congress informed.
The committee would continue receiving briefings on all oversight topics, including on election matters, Rubio said Ratcliffe told him.