Sep 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers probe DHS after whistleblower complaint on Russian interference

Chad Wolf sits in a windbreaker

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sept. 1. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating the Department of Homeland Security based on a former senior officials' whistleblower complaint that he was told to stop giving assessments on threats of Russian interference in the U.S. because it "made the president look bad," lawmakers announced Friday.

Why it matters: The National Counterintelligence and Security Center has concluded that Russia is seeking to undermine Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party, while supporting President Trump's candidacy.

  • DHS warned law enforcement last week that it believes Russian-controlled social media trolls and state media are likely to continue trying to sow distrust in U.S. election results and mail-in ballots.
  • Russian hackers have consistently targeted Republican and Democrat consultants, political advocacy groups and national party organizations affiliated with the 2020 election since September of last year, Microsoft said in a blog post on Thursday.

Driving the news: The whistleblower, intelligence and analysis acting undersecretary Brian Murphy, alleged that he was told to report instead on interference activities by China and Iran, which have also been identified as pressing threats for election interference.

  • Murphy is also involved in the House committees' existing investigation into the DHS. The agency reassigned him after his office analyzed communications between Portland protesters and supplied law enforcement with lists of journalists that had published leaked agency documents, the Washington Post first reported.

What they're saying: "The misconduct and abuses detailed in the complaint occurred as early as 2018, continued through this year, and have been longstanding subjects of Committee oversight," Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Friday.

  • "These allegations, if true, raise serious concerns about a potential disregard for the objectivity and impartiality of intelligence analysis," Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a letter to the agency on Friday.

Read Schiff's letter.

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