The main US intelligence bureau told lawmakers it would largely stop holding in-person election security briefings, signaling it does not trust lawmakers to keep the information a secret .
Donald Trump’s new director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe notified House and Senate intelligence groups on Friday that he would send out written reports instead, giving lawmakers fewer opportunities to press for details in the run-up to the November 3 elections.
An official at Ratcliffe’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday that the office was “concerned about the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information as a result of recent briefings.”
The move sparked a heated retaliation from House Democrats, who focused on foreign efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and again this year.
“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 trying to overthrow our democracy,” said the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the chairman of the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, 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 chair of the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence, said Saturday night in a statement that he had spoken with Ratcliffe, who had “unequivocally told him” that he would fulfill the requirements. obligations of 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 during a visit to Texas that Ratcliffe would “ultimately give full briefings, not oral briefings, but fully intelligent briefings.”
The national intelligence director’s office 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.
“For clarity and to protect sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure, we will do so primarily through written finished intelligence products,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Biden said in a statement Saturday night that the office 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 president’s personal interests.” 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.”