WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Election security official, Shelby Pierson, told lawmakers that US Intelligence believes that Russia is again making efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, in pursuit to re-elect President Donald Trump for another term.
- Russia’s interference was believed to stem back from the 2016 election—in a move to support Trump’s presidential bid.
- Trump has dismissed the assertions and said that Russia’s efforts are not linked to his election.
A top election security official met with lawmakers last week to warn them that the intelligence community thinks Russia is already acting on interfering in the 2020 election to aid in the victory of President Donald Trump.
The intelligence community believes that Russia’s intrusion in the 2016 election was meant to boost Trump’s candidacy and put his opponent Hillary Clinton on the rocks—Trump dismissed the claim.
The meeting last week, led by election security official Shelby Pierson, focused on Russia’s efforts, including hacking, weaponizing social media and attacking election infrastructure.
Trump and the House Republicans were indifferent towards Pierson’s classified briefing after learning about it in a meeting with the outgoing acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire last week. According to a source, Trump seemed irate that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat who has been a prominent critic, was present in that meeting.
The president was upset as he believed that Schiff would use the information against his reelection; Trump then blamed Maguire for getting the information to Schiff.
Another reason for Trump’s frustration was the fact that he heard about the intelligence conclusion from a Congress member instead of the intelligence community. A former senior intelligence official implied that Trump’s reaction showed that he and the intelligence community “are still unable to communicate on this topic.”
On Wednesday, Trump announced that Richard Grenell, a staunch loyalist and current US ambassador to Germany, will be the acting DNI despite of his inexperience in intelligence.
White House officials thought that the placement of Grenell is a temporary solution for the acting DNI vacancy. Aside from the short time left from Maguire’s term in office, a source said that the appointment was triggered by Trump’s dissatisfaction with the outgoing acting DNI.
James Clapper, former director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, told CNN on Thursday evening that Russia’s attempt of interference is “quite predictable.”
Meanwhile, the president has repeatedly downplayed Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US elections and discounted US intelligence findings.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump told reporters as he stood alongside the Russian leader. He later claimed to have misspoken.