The Department of Homeland Security intervened to stop the release of an intelligence bulletin that detailed a Russian scheme to attack Democratic nominee Joe Biden by alleging his poor mental health. Those allegations track with an attack President Donald Trump has been lobbing at his rival for more than a year.
According to ABC News, the bulletin called “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election” was submitted for review on July 7, with the intention that it would be dispersed to federal and local law enforcement partners.
At that point, the department heads intervened.
“Please hold on sending this one out until you have a chance to speak to [acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf],” wrote DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis in an email obtained by ABC News.
After that, the bulletin was never circulated.
Though DHS told ABC that the information failed to meet the agency’s standards, analysts had reportedly written that they had “high confidence” that Russian actors were going to use the attacks to try to sway the 2020 election.
“He is blocking the intelligence community from sharing with federal and state law enforcement a crucial finding: that Russia is disseminating false and scurrilous attacks on the health of Joe Biden — one that aligns with Trump’s own constantly-backfiring attacks,” Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told TPM.
“And why would he do this?” he added. “Because Russia and the Trump campaign are speaking from the same script of smears and lies, and Trump does not want to expose the degree to which his political partners in the Kremlin are propagating this message for his benefit.”
Indeed, Trump and his campaign have been frequently going back to the “Joe Biden is senile” well, an attack of a piece with the attempt to paint Biden as a puppet for supposed radical leftist Kamala Harris’ “socialist” policies.
This week, though, the Trump campaign lacked some message discipline on the mental health attack front. Trump seized on a comment made by CNN analyst Joe Lockhart hypothesizing that the President had a secret stroke, blowing it up into a story big enough that outlets previously ignoring the rumor reported on Trump’s reaction to it. Trump even had his doctor send around a press release stating that he never had such an illness.
But the new report also reveals a disturbing trend within the administration, of political interference with intelligence around the election.
Earlier this week, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Congress he would stop providing in-person briefings on election security and foreign interference, citing a concern over leaks.
The decision sparked immediate outrage from Democratic members.
“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,” wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) in a joint statement.
“This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian,” the continued. “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.”