Sep 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top Democrats demand intel chief resume election security briefings

A photo of John Ratcliffe.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty Images.

Top Democrats in a letter on Tuesday demanded that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe resume in-person congressional briefings on election security, which he abruptly halted last week, citing leaks of classified material.

Why it matters: Democrats, outraged over Ratcliffe's suspension of the briefings less than three months before the election, threatened to "consider the full range of tools available to compel compliance," which would likely include a subpoena and the withholding of funds to the top intelligence chief's office.

Context: Ratcliffe's decision came less than a month after the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said Russia is actively "using a range of measures" to "denigrate former Vice President Biden" before the November election.

  • The center's director, William Evanina, added that Kremlin-linked actors are actively supporting President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television, while others are spreading false claims about corruption to undermine Biden and the Democratic Party.

What they're saying: "Your abrupt decision to cancel previously scheduled election-related briefings ... is an abdication of your responsibility to keep the American people and their elected representatives informed of foreign threats to the 2020 election," wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), the chairman of an appropriations subcommittee.

  • "It is more troubling as it comes only weeks before the American people begin casting votes within weeks of the Intelligence Community affirming publicly that our elections and American voters are once again the target of foreign interference," they added.
  • "Only through regular and in-depth briefings can Members of Congress ... hear directly from our career intelligence professionals, probe and scrutinize underlying reporting and basis for intelligence assessments, learn what steps the United States is taking to thwart foreign interference, and ensure that the intelligence judgments are not being influenced or skewed for political purposes."

The other side: Ratcliffe defended his decision on Fox News Sunday, accusing members of Congress of leaking classified information "for political purposes, to create a narrative that simply isn’t true, that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China."

Go deeper: Read the full letter.

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