White House halts election security briefings to Congress

WION Web Team
Washington, DC, United States of America Published: Aug 30, 2020, 08:04 AM(IST)

Donald Trump Photograph:( AFP )

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US President Donald Trump's new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, notified the House and Senate intelligence panels on Friday that the office would send written reports instead.

The White House has revealed it is to end in-person briefings to congressional intelligence committees about foreign election interference, sparking accusations Saturday that it was covering up Russian help for President Donald Trump's reelection.

The move comes two months ahead of the general election, with Trump playing down the threat of foreign interference and accusing Democrats of leaking sensitive information.

US President Donald Trump's new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, notified the House and Senate intelligence panels on Friday that the office would send written reports instead, giving lawmakers less opportunity to press for details as the November 3 election approaches.

Ratcliffe's office had offered to hold in-person briefings for the House and Senate oversight panels next month, even after concerns surfaced about leaks from previous meetings, a House committee official said. It later rescinded the offer.

The move drew heated rejoinders from Democratic lawmakers who have focussed on foreign efforts to sway the presidential election in 2016 and again this year.

"This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement on Saturday.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said this month that Russia, which orchestrated a hacking campaign to sway the 2016 election in Trump's favour, was trying to "denigrate" Trump's 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. And it said China and Iran were hoping Trump is not re-elected.

Ratcliffe, a close political ally of Trump, is a former member of the House intelligence panel and was a vocal defender of the president during investigations of Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 election. He told senators during his confirmation hearing this year that "the intelligence I deliver will not be subject to outside influence."

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