Trump administration claims it blocked Russian interference report for lack of 'evidence'

2367

Facebook and Twitter said just this week that they had dismantled a network of accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency, which was accused of interfering in the 2016 election.

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf blocked the release of an intelligence report in July that found Russia is pushing a false narrative about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's health, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

A DHS official claimed this week that the department did so because the intelligence report purportedly "failed to meet the agency's standards," ABC wrote.

According to the outlet, the intelligence community determined earlier this summer, with "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."

Donald Trump and his surrogates have been pushing the same false narrative that Biden is in cognitive decline, even sharing a doctored video to try to bolster their smear.

The DHS official who spoke to ABC News this week claimed that while the department "generally does not comment on leaked documents, this particular draft product lacked the necessary context and evidence for broader dissemination outside of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis."

"After briefing the Acting Secretary and he asked questions, [Office of Intelligence and Analysis] career leadership decided to delay the product for further review," they added.

The revelation comes one day after Facebook and Twitter announced that they had removed several Russian-backed accounts and pages whose aim was to hurt Biden's candidacy by "target[ing] public debate in the US" — just as Russia did in 2016 when it targeted Hillary Clinton's campaign and sought to help elect Trump.

In late August, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe informed Congress that he would stop briefing members in person on issues pertaining to election security, leading to accusations that the administration was trying to hide information from the American people.

Multiple reports throughout the years have also claimed that Trump himself is so resistant to hearing about Russian interference in U.S. elections that the intelligence community has opted to not brief him on the efforts.

Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, now-former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was told not to brief Trump on Russian meddling because it "wasn't a great subject and should be kept below his level."

The Trump campaign, for its part, claimed to ABC News this week that it doesn't "need or want any foreign interference" ahead of the 2020 election.

"There's no question that the President has been tougher on Russia than any president before him, imposing sanctions and expelling diplomats, in contrast to the Obama-Biden Administration, which choked in the face of Russian interference," Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh claimed in a statement. "President Trump will beat Joe Biden fair and square."

Trump has not been tough on Russia as he claims.

He refused to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin following reports from the intelligence community earlier this summer that Russia put bounties on the heads of American troops.

"I have never discussed it with him," Trump told Axios in an interview in July. "That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news."

Though the National Security Agency reportedly broke with other intelligence agencies on the reports, as Axios noted, the CIA had confirmed them several months earlier.

In that same interview, Trump also claimed that reports Russia was supporting the Taliban, first flagged by his own military officials in 2018, "never reached" his office.

Trump has also famously refused to condemn Putin over Russia's 2016 interference campaign on multiple occasions, despite his own intelligence officials determining that Russia engaged in a "sweeping and systematic" effort to meddle in that election to support his bid for the White House.

During a meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last year, just 10 weeks after special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference was made public, Trump was asked whether he would discuss that interference campaign with the Russian leader, to which he replied, "Yes, of course I will."

Turning to Putin and wagging his finger playfully, he added, "Don't meddle in the election, president. Don't meddle in the election."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.