May 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Trump DHS delayed Russian election interference report, watchdog finds

Acting Homeland Security Security Secretary Chad Wolf speaks as US President Donald Trump(R) listens during a briefing for Hurricane Laura on August 27, 2020  in Washington, DC.
Then-acting Homeland Security Security Secretary Chad Wolf with then-President Trump at an August 2020 briefing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images

Chad Wolf twice delayed an intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election when he was acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, according to the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Why it matters: The OIG report found the decision and altering of the report seemed to be "based in part on political considerations," after a staffer said it was held because it "made President Trump look bad and hurt President Trump's campaign." Wolf told the OIG it was delayed due to concerns about quality, including that it "was not well written."

  • The finding that staffers in the department's Intelligence and Analysis office "changed the product's scope by making changes" partially for political reasons raises objectivity concerns and potentially impacts the I&A's compliance with Intelligence Community policy, per the OIG report.
  • The intelligence product, referred to as "Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Electoral Dynamics," was first being drafted in April 2020 after then-presidential candidate Joe Biden had emerged as a front-runner in the Democratic race.

Worth noting: The report, which doesn't name Wolf, notes that the "Acting Secretary participated in the review process multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product, resulting in the delay of its dissemination on at least one occasion."

  • Meeting notes taken by a staffer read "'AS1 [acting secretary] – will hurt POTUS – kill it per his authorities.'"
  • The employee told the OIG "the Acting Secretary told him to hold the product because it would hurt President Trump; he also believed the Acting Secretary was referring to authorities possessed by the DHS Secretary."

The other side: Wolf told Axios via text message on Wednesday morning that the OIG's report "supports my longstanding position on this matter."

  • "First, I became aware and was concerned about the deficiencies of this product because of the lack of professional standards and quality control exhibited at the time, as confirmed by I&A employees and validated by a separate audit," Wolf said.
  • "Second, the conclusion of the report did not find any credible evidence that I directed anyone to change the substance of the report because it 'made President Trump look bad,'" he continued. "In fact, the report found no objection to the report or its subsequent release.
  • "And finally, buried in the report is the fact that the grossly false whistleblower complaint against me was withdrawn," Wolf added.

Read the report in full, via DocumentCloud.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Wolf.

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