Mr. Schiff, who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC on Friday that he had “urged Bill Evanina and other members of the intelligence community to level up with the American people on what is going on” . He said the warning gave “a false sense of equivalence between what Russia is doing, what China is doing, what Iran is doing.”
Mr Schiff and the three other authors of the letter have been made widely aware of the information and are therefore prohibited from violating classification rules by describing what they have seen.
But Mr. Schiff, a frequent target of harsh criticism from Mr. Trump because he was the Democrats’ director in the Senate impeachment trial, added: “I think our opponents, especially the Russians, are going to amplify the bogus messages that the president publishes: “Well, you can’t trust postal votes”, even if that’s how the president votes. “
Some intelligence officials expressed surprise at the letter from lawmakers and insisted they were not trying to downplay the threat of interference from Moscow or signal that China was a bigger challenge. They said Mr. Evanina’s statement was meant to be the start of a series of public statements, according to an official in the office of the director of national intelligence.
The official said the statement did not downplay the threat of Russian interference, but lawmakers should understand that the 2020 competition will be different from the 2016 competition.
However, it is not known whether these statements deter US adversaries from taking further action. But it’s clear 2020 won’t be the same as 2016 – the Russians know they can’t use the same playbook, and Iran and China both seem poised to play a bigger role.
The question is whether they will be on the same side or will work against each other.
After the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence assessments concluded that the Russians had finally intervened on behalf of Mr. Trump. But this year, Republicans and Democrats who have considered the intelligence have come to different assessments as to whether Russia is hoping to tip the election to Mr. Trump or whether President Vladimir V. Putin has simply lodged it. intent to erode confidence in the US electoral system.