Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe accused Democrats of cherry-picking crucial information about national security to mislead the media and the public about threats to the upcoming election.
In a letter responding to Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., Ratcliffe disavowed information leaked to the press that claimed the two top GOP committee chairs had been in communication with a Russian operative about election meddling.
The Democrats appear to have made the accusations against the senators following a classified intelligence briefing—normally reserved only for a select few congressional leaders—which indicated that both China and Russia were actively seeking to interfere in the upcoming election.
Democrats went to the media to claim that only Russia posed a serious threat, also suggesting that Trump allies such as Grassley and Johnson were involved in the plot.
They added to the theatrics by drafting a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray requesting an urgent defensive counterintelligence briefing for all members of Congress.
“We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” said the letter signed by Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, both of California; and Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Mark Warner of Virginia.
“Given the seriousness and specificity of these threats, as members of congressional leadership and the congressional intelligence committees we believe it is imperative that the FBI provided a classified defensive briefing to all Members of Congress,” it said.
The letter contained a classified addendum, which was later provided to the entire House—and portions of which ultimately found their way to the media.
Ratcliffe disavowed the leaked document, saying it had never been created by or authorized in coordination with his office.
“I can confirm the IC did not create the classified addendum to the 13 July letter, nor did we authorize its creation,” Ratcliffe said. “The IC was not consulted prior to its creation and subsequent release to the entire membership of the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Moreover, it “only draws selectively from a small number of IC reports and focuses on only one threat actor in the elections security space,” Ratcliff said, and it “by no means reflects the full and complete analysis of the IC.”
In a press release, Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, denounced the devious tactic as a means to advance a false narrative while hiding behind the classified status of the reports to prevent any clarification of the record.
Democrats “mixed their theories on unclassified open source material with classified intelligence reports to fabricate a veneer of credibility but shield their analysis from public scrutiny,” Grassley’s release said.
The GOP senators also rejected the accusations against them that they had colluded with a Russian operative, saying that was, itself, part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.
“[T]here is no such evidence to support these false Democrat claims,” said the senators.
“It’s clear from [Ratcliffe]’s letter that this addendum was created to advance partisan politics not election security,” they continued. “Congress should take seriously any real threat to our elections, not just the ones Democrats find politically convenient or ones they cook up based on actual disinformation to smear their political rivals.”
The leak of the classified material prompted Ratcliffe to announce recently that he will no longer conduct any in-person intelligence briefings but instead supply material only by writing.
President Donald Trump later weighed in on the leak and its suspected culprit, telling reporters, “Whether it was Shifty Schiff or someone else, you have leakers on the committee who are doing bad things … and he got tired of it.”
Schiff told CNN that he knew nothing about the leaking.
Rep. Adam Schiff responds to President Trump’s accusations of leaks: “I haven’t. My staff hasn’t. … Leaks are always improper and sometimes they’re illegal. But of course this is a falsehood, yet again, another lie by the President” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/W2oCnTiuaZ
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 30, 2020