Back in July, the Department of Homeland Security was set to submit a report to law enforcement partners outlining a Russian plot to depict Democratic presidential pick Joe Biden as mentally unfit for office — but after an abrupt intervention involving Trump’s handpicked acting department chief Chad Wolf, the report never went out. The document described “allegations about the poor mental health” of Biden that have apparently been peddled by Russia-linked actors, and on July 7, the legislative and public affairs office at the department began a review of the material. Almost immediately after the office got a copy, the department’s Chief of Staff John Gountanis asked them to “hold on sending this one out” until a review from Wolf. After Wolf “asked questions,” as a department spokesperson put it, the document never went out.
The document insisted with what it called “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election,” and the document was titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election.” It’s worth noting — despite Trump’s own highly dubious mental and physical states, the Trump campaign has gone all in with peddling this exact same line of attack against Biden. Trump and Biden are both in their 70s, and Trump was himself the oldest person to be inaugurated as U.S. president ever in 2016.
Amidst his desperation to secure his own political standing, Trump has repeatedly tried to downplay the threat of foreign interference in U.S. elections. John Cohen, who worked at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration, told ABC:
‘We are hearing concerns being raised publicly that, in this administration, intelligence community reporting is being modified or blocked for political reasons — or to not anger the president. By blocking information from being released that describes threats facing the nation, it undermines the ability of the public and state and local authorities to work with the federal government to counteract the threat.’
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson claimed to ABC that the document outlining the Russian plot to cast doubts about Biden’s mental health “lacked the necessary context and evidence for broader dissemination outside of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.”
The Biden campaign blamed Trump for the curtailing of the dissemination of important intelligence about foreign interference in U.S. elections, although it’s unclear what personal role he may have had in the situation surrounding the report about Russian efforts against Biden. Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said:
‘[Trump] is blocking the intelligence community from sharing with federal and state law enforcement a crucial finding: that Russia is disseminating false and scurrilous attacks on the health of Joe Biden — one that aligns with Trump’s own constantly-backfiring attacks. And why would he do this? Because Russia and the Trump campaign are speaking from the same script of smears and lies.’
In the time since the buried report was supposed to go out, a separate report has come out publicly from Bill Evanina, who leads the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center and who outlined election threats from Russia, China, and Iran.