NEW YORK, Aug 31 (APP): The United States’ top intelligence official is scaling back its election security briefings to Congress, saying he was concerned that lawmakers had leaked sensitive classified materials to the public.
John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, told Fox News that he will continue to keep Congress informed via written reports and will continue to brief relevant congressional committees.
The move has enraged congressional Democrats, who have long charged the Trump administration with downplaying what they call foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election, especially by Russia.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement that the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) canceled separate briefings that had been scheduled for September before the intelligence committees and all members of Congress.
“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 and Pelosi said.
Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Senator Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, released separate statements on the administration’s decision, with Rubio excoriating those who leak classified information while urging Ratcliffe to “continue to fulfill” his obligations to fully brief Congress, and Warner casting the decision as “outrageous” and “an unprecedented attempt to politicize” the issue.
ODNI officials were particularly angry about a leak from an all-House classified briefing led by top counterintelligence official Bill Evanina late last month, where Pelosi accused him of keeping Americans in the dark about the details of Russia’s continued interference in the 2020 campaign.
“What I’m concerned about is that the American people should be better informed,” the speaker was quoted as saying in media reports.
Evanina ultimately acknowledged in that briefing that Russia is again trying to boost President Donald Trump’s reelection and denigrate his opponent, Joe Biden. In a statement at the time, an ODNI official said Evanina was “incredibly disappointed in the inability of some to protect classified information they are legally obligated to safeguard and instead attempt to use it for partisan gain.”
During a roundtable in Orange, Texas, on Saturday, Trump blamed House Democrats for leaking information.
“Director Ratcliffe brought information into the committee, and the information leaked,” Trump said. “Whether it was Shifty Schiff or somebody else, they leaked the information. … And what’s even worse, they leaked the wrong information. And he got tired of it. So he wants to do it in a different forum, because you have leakers on the committee.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows added, “[Ratcliffe’s] going to make sure that there’s proper tools for their oversight and make sure they contain it in a way that does not jeopardize sources and methods for the intel that we’ve got.”
Biden, meanwhile, said in a statement the move was “nothing less than a shameless partisan manipulation to protect the personal interests of President Trump.”
“There can be only one conclusion: President Trump is hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy and cover his horrific failures to lead our country through the multiple crises we are facing,” the Democratic presidential nominee added.
The unprecedented move to deny in-person briefings on a particular subject comes just weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election.