Intelligence Officials Warn Congress of Russian Interference in 2020


Intelligence officials delivered a warning to a bipartisan group of Congress: Russia has a preference for President Donald Trump in 2020 and may try to act on that preference again.

The warning was given by Shelby Pierson, a top election-security official from the office of Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Pierson made the comments in a classified hearing delivered to the House Intelligence Committee, the details of which were leaked to The Washington Post.

Trump responded to hearing about the briefing by reportedly lashing out at Maguire, according to The Post, and on Wednesday he announced he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany. Grenell has little intelligence experience and the decision to name him as acting Director of National Intelligence, the top national security spot in the country, was a controversial one. Grenell said he will not be nominated to take over the post permanently, a move that would require a Senate confirmation hearing.

During the classified briefing, Pierson told lawmakers that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump, a U.S. official told The Post. The group also discussed whether the government should warn 2020 Democratic contenders if intelligence officials see that they’re being targeted by foreign governments.

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Trump is said to have learned of the briefing from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is on the House Intelligence Committee.

“Members on both sides participated, including ranking member Nunes, and heard the exact same briefing from experts across the intelligence community,” a committee official told The Post. “No special or separate briefing was provided to one side or to any single member, including the chairman.”

The Wall Street Journal confirmed much of The Washington Post reporting, adding that Trump “grew irate,” as the WSJ writes, after learning that the hearing occurred before he was briefed on election interference the next day.

However, the president tweeted on Friday, saying, “Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress.”

As of Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the allegation of interference in the 2020 election, “These are more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the (U.S.) election. They have nothing to do with the truth.”

The White House reportedly floated Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) for the permanent Director of National Intelligence role on Thursday night, but early Friday he said he had no interest in the position during an interview on Fox Business.

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Isaac Saul is a senior politics reporter, editor and founding member at A Plus, the positive news oulet founded by Ashton Kutcher. He also writes the independent, non-partisan, ad-free politics newsletter Tangle. His reporting focuses on Congress, elections, immigration and climate change. His writing has appeared in CNN, The New York Daily News, The Forward, Yahoo!, The Huffington Post, Quartz, and been cited by The Washington Post, The New York Times and Fox News, among others. Before A Plus, he was an Associate Editor at The Huffington Post and the sports editor at The Pitt News.