Trump administration cuts in-person election security briefings for Congress, citing leaks

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The United States’ top intelligence bureau has told lawmakers it will end in-person briefings on election security because there were leaks from congressional committees, officials said on Saturday. .

The move drew strong backlashes from Democrats who focused on foreign efforts to influence the presidential election in 2016 and again this year.

President Donald Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, informed House and Senate intelligence groups on Friday that the office would send out written reports instead, which would give lawmakers fewer opportunities to lobby for get details ahead of the November 3 election. An official at Ratcliffe’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was “concerned about the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information following recent briefings.”

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff denounced the move. “This is a shocking abdication of its legal responsibility to keep Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are attempting to overthrow our democracy,” they said in a statement.

Ratcliffe’s office had offered to hold in-person briefings for the House and Senate watch groups next month, even after concerns arose about leaks at previous meetings, an official said. of the House committee. He subsequently canceled the offer.

The decision was first reported by CNN.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican and acting chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement Saturday that he had spoken to Ratcliffe, who had “unequivocally stated” that he would fulfill his obligations. the intelligence community to keep members of Congress. informed.

The committee will continue to receive briefings on all oversight topics, including electoral matters, Rubio Ratcliffe said.

It was not clear if Rubio meant it would be in-person briefings. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters on a visit to Texas that Ratcliffe “will ultimately give full briefings, not oral briefings, but fully intelligent briefings.” “

The office of the director of national intelligence said this month that Russia, which orchestrated a hacking campaign to influence the 2016 pro-Trump election, was trying to “denigrate” Trump’s 2020 Democratic opponent Joe Biden. And he said China and Iran hoped Trump would not be re-elected.

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“For clarity and to protect sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure, we will do so primarily through written finished intelligence products,” said the ODNI official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Biden said in a statement on Saturday night that ODNI was reducing one of the most basic tasks in the intelligence community and that it was “nothing less than shameless partisan manipulation to protect the personal interests of the intelligence community.” President Trump ”.

Ratcliffe, a close political ally of Trump, is a former member of the House Intelligence Group and was a strong supporter of the president during inquiries into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. He told senators during the its confirmation hearing this year that “the information I provide will not be subject to outside influence.”

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