Sep 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Report: DHS withheld note warning of Russian attacks on Biden's mental health

Chad Wolf and Donald Trump.
Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and President Trump. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security withheld the release of an intelligence bulletin warning law enforcement agencies about a Russian campaign to promote allegations about Democratic nominee Joe Biden's "poor mental health," ABC News reports.

Why it matters: The report comes days after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that it will no longer brief congressional committees on election security issues and it echoes allegations from the Trump campaign on Biden's mental fitness. The news is likely to fuel even more accusations from Democrats that President Trump and his administration have politicized the use of intelligence.

A draft of the bulletin, which was submitted to the DHS' legislative and public affairs office for review on July 7, was supposed to go to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies on July 9, according to emails obtained by ABC News.

  • That was before DHS chief of staff John Gountanis intervened, asking to “Please hold on sending this one out until you have a chance to speak to [acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf]," ABC reported, citing the emails.
  • Nearly two months later, the bulletin has not been distributed.

The bottom line: “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election,” per the bulletin.

  • The document also mentions that the Iranian and Chinese governments have made efforts to hurt Trump's re-election.

What they're saying: A DHS official told ABC News in a statement that the bulletin failed to meet the agency’s standards.

  • The official said the agency doesn't typically comment on leaked documents, but "this particular draft product lacked the necessary context and evidence for broader dissemination outside of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.”
  • “After briefing the Acting Secretary and he asked questions ... [Office of Intelligence and Analysis] career leadership decided to delay the product for further review.”
  • Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh told ABC: "We don’t need or want any foreign interference." He added that Trump "has been tougher on Russia than any president before him."
Go deeper