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.

Go deeper

Trump nominates former Nunes aide to be intelligence community watchdog

Devin Nunes. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate National Security Council official Allen Souza, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), to serve as the inspector general of the intelligence community.

Why it matters: Trump fired the IC's previous inspector general Michael Atkinson for his handling of a whistleblower complaint about the president's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Atkinson's decision to turn over the complaint to Congress ultimately led to Trump's impeachment.

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 32,390,204 — Total deaths: 985,302 — Total recoveries: 22,286,345Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m ET: 7,020,967 — Total deaths: 203,481 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,476,600Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.