Trump administration ends election security briefings

Politics

FILE – In this Dec. 9, 2019, file photo, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, during the House impeachment inquiry hearings in Washington. The Trump administration has ended all election security briefings to Congress just weeks before Americans cast their ballots for president. The top U.S. intelligence official, National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, told lawmakers Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 that they would only be receiving written updates about election security to help ensure the information “is not misunderstood nor politicized.” (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has ended all election security briefings to Congress just weeks before Americans cast their ballots for president, raising concern among lawmakers about the public’s right to know about foreign interference in the election.

The nation’s top intelligence official, National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe, told the Senate and House intelligence committees on Friday that the committees would only be receiving written updates about election security to help ensure the information “is not misunderstood nor politicized.”

An official with Ratcliffe’s office said Ratcliffe remains committed to meeting statutory responsibilities and keeping Congress informed. The official said, however, that there are concerns about unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information following recent briefings on Capitol Hill. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and requested anonymity.

In his letter to the committees, Ratcliffe wrote: “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.”

Democrats expressed outrage at the decision by Ratcliffe, who directs the office overseeing the nation’s intelligence agencies.

“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 Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrat who chairs the House’s intelligence committee, said in a joint statement.

“This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian. 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 said.

Officials said this month that they have assessed that Russia is working to denigrate President Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. They have also said China prefers to see Trump lose and regards the president as unpredictable, but officials have not detailed specific steps Beijing had already taken to interfere in the election.

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