The Trump Administration’s Director of National Intelligence (DNI) — former Congressman John Ratcliffe, who’s an ardent political ally of the president — has reportedly cancelled in-person briefings on “election security issues” for the Intelligence Committees in both the Democrat-led House and the Republican-led Senate. In place of the in-person updates, Ratcliffe’s office will reportedly be providing written updates to the respective committees. The move, which was revealed with just a short time to go until the general election, seems sure to spark concern among some observers who might worry about potential Trump administration efforts to lock down information about foreign interference in U.S. elections.
As CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz reported on Saturday:
‘DNI has informed the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence that they’ll no longer be briefing on election security issues, a senior administration official told CNN. It’ll provide written updates the official said.’
DNI has informed the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence that they’ll no longer be briefing on election security issues, a senior administration official told CNN. It’ll provide written updates the official said. @jaketapper
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) August 29, 2020
The cancellation of in-person election security briefings for top members of Congress stands in stark contrast to the fact that, recently, William Evanina — who’s the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center — identified Russia, China, and Iran as all apparently meddling in the 2020 presidential election. Russia, he explained, “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment,'” while China “prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing sees as unpredictable – does not win re-election.” Iran will “probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content” because of “a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of US pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change,” he added.
Trump has personally long tried to downplay threats of foreign interference in U.S. elections — at least in certain contexts. When it comes to well-documented Russian interference efforts around the 2016 election, Trump has routinely decried the whole Russia scandal as a “witch hunt.” On the flip side, Trump has more recently wheeled out the conspiracy theory that foreign countries may seek to meddle in the mail-in voting process in the U.S. through means like secretly submitting fraudulent ballots among the ballots from actual Americans. Besides the fact that it’s unclear how a foreign country might even do that, a senior intelligence official recently told reporters that they have “no information or intelligence that any nation state threat actor is engaging in activity… to undermine any part of the mail-in vote or ballots.”
Trump has also sounded an alarm about a supposed potential for widespread domestically-based fraud accompanying the widespread usage of mail-in ballots. There’s no evidence for that claim, either. A senior FBI official observed that the agency has “not seen, to date, a coordinated national voter fraud effort during a major election and it would be extraordinarily difficult to change a federal election outcome through this type of model alone, given the range of processes that we need to be affected or compromised by an adversary at the local level,” an observation that stands in direct contradiction to the president.
Trump, for instance, has claimed:
‘RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!’
There’s zero evidence for this claim. Trump may simply be paranoid about the possibility of losing and trying to come up with pre-planned excuses in case he does lose.
RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020