The official added that other agencies supporting election security, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, intend to continue briefing Congress.
Still, the abrupt announcement is a change that runs counter to the pledge of transparency and regular briefings on election threats by the intelligence community.
President Donald Trump said Saturday that Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe “got tired of” information leaking “so, he wants to do it in a different form.”
“Director Ratcliffe brought information into the committee, and the information leaked,” Trump said at an event in Texas.
“So, he wants to do it in a different form because you have leakers on the committee, obviously, leakers that are doing bad things, probably not even legal to leak, but we’ll look into that separately,” Trump said.
In response to Trump’s accusations about leaks, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted, “As usual, President Trump is lying and projecting. Trump fired the last DNI for briefing Congress on Russian efforts to help his campaign. Now he’s ending briefings altogether. Trump doesn’t want the American people to know about Russia’s efforts to aid his re-election.”
‘Shocking abdication’ of lawful responsibility
Although the letter from the ODNI to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is stamped as having been delivered Friday, a source in the speaker’s office said the office only received the letter Saturday evening after 5 p.m., via email, hours after the story broke on CNN and hours after CNN obtained a copy of it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer only received his letter late Saturday, too, according to a Schumer aide.
The House Intelligence Committee received verbal notification of the change on Friday, without rationale, it but did not receive the ODNI letter until Saturday after 5 p.m., a source said, and the Senate Intelligence Committee received it at 5:10 p.m.
Democratic leaders on Saturday denounced the decision by the ODNI to no longer provide in-person briefings to members of Congress, including the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, on election security.
“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. This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian. And the American people have both the right and the need to know that another nation, Russia, is trying to help decide who their president should be,” Pelosi and Schiff said in a statement.
“The ODNI had requested the opportunity to brief the intelligence committees and the full US House of Representatives in mid-September and has now cancelled those briefings and said it would hold no others. This is shameful and — coming only weeks before the election — demonstrates that the Trump Administration is engaged in a politicized effort to withhold election-related information from Congress and the American people at the precise moment that greater transparency and accountability is required,” Pelosi and Schiff added.
Schumer on Saturday also called the decision not to provide briefings an “abdication of the Intelligence Community’s duty” and said Ratcliffe “has made clear he’s in the job only to protect Trump from democracy, not democracy from Trump.”
“Our intelligence officials have said there’s an active, ongoing assault on our democratic process from Russia. President Trump is simply using John Ratcliffe to hide the ugly truth from the American people – that the President is again receiving the help of the Kremlin,” the New York Democrat said in a statement.
Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner called the decision to stop in-person briefings an “unprecedented attempt to politicize an issue — protecting our democracy from foreign intervention — that should be non-partisan.”
“Russia interfered in our elections in 2016, and they’re doing it again in 2020. One (of) the lessons we should draw from what happened in 2016 is that Congress and the American public need to know more information about the election interference threat — not less,” the Virginia Democrat said a statement.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign condemned the move and called on it to be reversed.
“For his administration to constrain the information being provided to the peoples’ representatives in Congress…