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President Donald Trump said his administration has stopped providing in-person election security briefings to Congress because House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and others were constantly leaking classified information to the media.
As such, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, the country’s top intel official, informed the House and Senate intelligence committees that members would only be getting written updates regarding election security, to ensure the information “is not misunderstood or politicized,” The Associated Press reported.
During a briefing with the media regarding Hurricane Laura in Orange, Texas, the president said Ratcliffe made the decision to halt the in-person briefings because the administration “got tired” of having information presented during the briefings leaked by members of Congress.
“They leaked the information,” Trump said, “and what’s worse, they leaked the wrong information and we got tired of it.”
He added that his administration would be looking into whether there were violations of U.S. law regarding the alleged leaks.
The president would later tweet, “Probably Shifty Schiff, but others also, LEAK information to the Fake News. No matter what or who it is about, including China, these deranged lowlifes like the Russia, Russia, Russia narrative. Plays better for them. @DNIRatcliffe doing a great job!”
But rather than address the leaking, congressional critics led by Democrats were angry at Ratcliffe and the president over the change in how they would be briefed.
“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,” Schiff, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a joint statement.
“This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian,” the statement continued.
The two lawmakers also resurrected the ‘Russian collusion’ narrative, which has repeatedly been debunked.
“And the American people have both the right and the need to know that another nation, Russia, is trying to help decide who their president should be,” they wrote.
Sen. Angus King, a Maine Independent who generally caucuses with Democrats, was also perturbed, saying that the notion the DNI’s office would end congressional briefings regarding foreign threats to the U.S. election is “an outrage,” adding that written assessments were “flatly insufficient.”
“America’s election – indeed, our foundation of democracy itself – is under threat as we face weaponized disinformation from global foes around the planet,” said King, a member of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in a statement.
“To stifle and limit the American peoples’ awareness of this fact cannot be explained — or allowed,” he continued.
Ratcliffe, who manages the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies, notified the House and Senate intelligence panels by letter on Saturday. The letters were sent to the committee chairmen and ranking members.
Congressional complaints regarding the change aside, an official with the DNI’s office told the AP that the director would continue to meet his statutory obligations to keep Congress apprised.
But the official noted there are increasing concerns in the White House that highly sensitive, classified information was being leaked following recent congressional briefings.
Also, despite the complaints, the DNI has a sworn obligation to protect sensitive information that could harm U.S. national security.
Former acting DNI Richard Grenell pushed back against criticism from Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who complained about the change and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘has something’ on him.
Yikes. Rhode Island Congressman is totally out of the loop.
Briefings will be in writing now. We are guarding against political manipulation from Congress.
And also – read up on China, Congressman! https://t.co/ixPs86ewY8
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 29, 2020
“Really strange that @realDonaldTrump is canceling election security briefings for Congress after all the recent news about what Russia is doing to help him again. Makes you wonder what Putin has on him,” Cicilline wrote.
Grenell responded: “Yikes. Rhode Island Congressman is totally out of the loop. Briefings will be in writing now. We are guarding against political manipulation from Congress. And also – read up on China, Congressman!”
Ratcliffe explained the change in his letter to both panels.
“I believe this approach helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information ODNI provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on elections security, foreign malign influence, and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized,” he wrote.
In Texas with the president, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that the administration and Ratcliffe would ensure that Congress has “proper tools for their oversight.”
As for Schiff, he has been accused before of leaking. In fact, former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), predicted in March 2019 the intelligence community would stop providing him with sensitive information because he “leaks like a screen door on a submarine.”
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