Congressional Democratic leaders on Sunday called for an intelligence report on foreign interference in the 2020 election to be made public so, they said, voters can be more informed about such efforts than they were in 2016.
“The American people need to know what the Russians are doing in this case and the American people believe that they should decide who the next president is, not Vladimir Putin,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who appeared on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to the Russian president.
On Friday, William Evanina – director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – issued a statement that said “foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process.”
Evanina said China, Russia and Iran were the primary concerns. He said while Russia was working to “boost” President Donald Trump’s candidacy, China and Iran were working to thwart his reelection.
But Pelosi said Russia’s efforts on Trump’s behalf were of a different magnitude than those of China and Iran.
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“They’re not equivalent,” she said. “Russia is actively, 24/7 interfering in our election. They did so in 2016, and they are doing so now,” Pelosi said. China, on the other hand, may prefer Biden “but they’re not really getting involved in the presidential election.”
Evanina’s statement said “Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. It did not provide details, but said, “Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”
In contrast, the statement said China sees Trump as “unpredictable” and cited its “public” rhetoric and statements as examples of its opposition to Trump’s reelection.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien defended the administration’s handling of election security on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” and insisted “it’s not just Russia” trying to interfere.
“There’s no higher concern that we have than maintaining the free and fair elections that are the cornerstone of our democracy,” O’Brien said. “We know that there are people overseas, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, others who would like to interfere with our democracy. And we’re going to fight against that. And we’re going to take every step necessary to harden our election infrastructure, harden our cyberinfrastructure and protect our elections 100%.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday that the DNI statement “only hints at the threats” to the election and the details he saw in a classified briefing were “chilling.”
“I believe the American public needs and deserves to know them. The information should be declassified immediately.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” that he agreed the information around election interference should be declassified “without compromising sources.”
The DNI statement said Russia was particularly focused on Biden’s work in Ukraine during the Obama administration and named “pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach” as a figure who “is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy.”
Trump was impeached in December for allegedly leveraging military aid to pressure Ukraine into announcing corruption investigations related to Biden and his son, Hunter. The president was eventually acquitted on the articles of impeachment by the Senate.
Schumer linked the Russian effort to smear Biden to a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee investigation led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., into Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. He said Johnson and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were conducting the probe “based on false Russian intelligence.”
“They should be ashamed of themselves for what they’re doing, letting the Russians manipulate them and us, the American people,” Schumer said.
Schumer called for the administration to impose additional sanctions on Russia, but O’Brien said there “almost nothing” of Russia’s left to sanction because the Trump administration had already taken so many actions against the country.
“There’s not a lot left we can do with the Russians,” he said, “But nevertheless, we continue to message the Russians. And President Trump continues to message the Russians: ‘don’t get involved in our elections.'”
But O’Brien declined to comment when asked if Trump told Putin not to interfere in U.S. elections during their most recent conversation.
“Unlike perhaps some of my predecessors or others who leaked documents, I don’t get into the conversations that the president has with foreign heads of state,” O’Brien said in an apparent reference to former national security adviser John Bolton. “Those are private conversations.”
Trump has questioned the intelligence community’s unanimous assessment that Russia tried to influence the election in his favor in 2016.
In response to the DNI statement, Trump said Friday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey “I think the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have – ever.”
But the president seemed to agree with the intelligence indicating China didn’t want him reelected. “If Joe Biden was president, China would own our country,” Trump said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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