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Intelligence Officials Worried Intel on Russian Election Interference Is Being Used for Political Gain

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Intelligence officials are reportedly growing worried that partisans on both sides of the aisle are using their briefings on Russian interference in elections for political gain.

NBC News reported on Feb. 20 that President Donald Trump was upset with his acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, for allowing intelligence officials to deliver a briefing to House lawmakers that said Russian operatives were interfering in the upcoming presidential election — and that they want to help him get re-elected. 

On Feb. 13, House members were reportedly briefed by Shelby Pierson —an election security official —about Russia’s efforts to interfere in the election and attempt to help Trump get re-elected. But after news broke about the briefing, other intelligence officials claimed that Pierson was misrepresenting what the intelligence showed.

CNN reports that officials say the Russians do not “have a preference” for president, but they “understand the President is someone they can work with.” 

Other officials told NBC News that they had seen evidence that Russia would like Trump to be re-elected. However, they have not seen evidence that the Russians are working interfere in the election to help Trump.

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Additionally, intelligence officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that Russian operatives were working to help his presidential campaign. Sanders released a statement that called on Russia to refrain from interfering in the election. 

“My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president, I will make sure that you do,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, intelligence officials were reportedly worried that Trump did not denounce election interference. However, during his trip to India, Trump said he did not want any help from foreign countries, “I want no help from any country. And I haven’t been given help from any country.”

But intelligence officials’ fears about the politicization of their work seem to be coming true.

During the South Carolina Democratic presidential debate, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to weaponize reports that Russians were helping Sanders, “Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that’s why Russia is helping you get elected because you’ll lose to him.” 

Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has also dismissed reports that Russians wanted to help Trump, “We just haven’t seen that intelligence. If it’s out there, I haven’t seen it. I’d be surprised if I haven’t seen it.”

Additionally, he claimed that it’s “no surprise” that Russians would want to help Sanders because “he honeymooned in Moscow.”

Although, CNN reports that intelligence officials say they have not seen evidence that Russia wants Sanders to win the general election. 

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