Congressional Democrats and the Trump Administration released dueling statements about election interference on Friday, as top Dem leadership hit out at the President’s election security czar for underplaying the seriousness of the threat.
Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center William Evanina issued a statement on Friday saying that Russia, China, and Iran posed threats to this year’s election as they “continue to use influence measures in social and traditional media in an effort to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, to shift U.S. policies, to increase discord and to undermine confidence in our democratic process.”
Congressional Democrats slammed the message as being incoherent and equivocal, in part because it appears to equate Russian interference efforts with those of other countries.
“The statement gives a false sense of equivalence to the actions of foreign adversaries by listing three countries of unequal intent, motivation and capability together,” the response, issued by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and leading Democrats on House and Senate intelligence panels, reads. “The statement, moreover, fails to fully delineate the goal, nature, scope and capacity to influence our election, information the American people must have as we go into November.”
The statements bring to mind the behind-the-scenes wrangling which prevented the Obama Administration from issuing any meaningful statement on Russia’s campaign to meddle in the 2016 election. That came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he would interpret any statement as interfering in the election and say so publicly.
The same group of Democrats sent a letter two weeks ago demanding that the FBI give Congress a defensive briefing regarding an unspecified foreign attempt to funnel disinformation to lawmakers.
That attempt is reportedly Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)’s probe of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Ukraine, during which a number of dubious and Russia-linked Ukrainians have begun to feed information to Johnson’s probe.
Evanina, the counterintelligence chief, said in the Friday statement that foreign adversaries are “seeking to compromise the private communications of U.S. political campaigns, candidates and other political targets.”
“Russia continues to spread disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process and denigrate what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment’ in America,” he wrote.
Democratic leadership derided that description as “so generic as to be almost meaningless.”
“The statement omits much on a subject of immense importance,” the lawmakers added.