Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Sunday defended his move to
no longer give in-person briefings about election security and foreign election interference by accusing members of Congress of leaking classified information “within minutes” after briefings were held.
On Friday, Ratcliffe told the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence that his office “will primarily meet its obligation to keep Congress fully and currently informed leading into the Presidential election through written finished intelligence products.” Ratcliffe argued that the move would better protect sources and methods and that it reflects “the highest analytic standards.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who serves as House Intelligence Committee chairman, reacted to Ratcliffe’s cancellation of in-person election security briefings the day after by calling the decision “shocking” and demanding that the ODNI resume briefings.
During an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Ratcliffe insisted that he went beyond expectations by briefing “not just the oversight committees, but every member of Congress.”
Ratcliffe then accused members of Congress of violating his “only condition” that the information shared in the briefings are treated with “the respect that it deserves and you keep it private.”
“Within minutes of one of those briefings ending, a number of members of Congress went to a number of different outlets and leaked classified information for political purposes,” Ratcliffe said. “To create a narrative that simply isn’t true, that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China.”
Ratcliffe went on to say that he doesn’t “mean to minimize Russia,” which he acknowledged is “a serious national security threat,” before arguing that “the threats that we face from China are significantly greater.”
“Anyone who says otherwise is just politicizing intelligence for their own narrative,” Ratcliffe said.
Ratcliffe’s move to scale back congressional briefings has prompted rebuke from congressional Democrats, who argue that the Trump administration has downplayed the threat of foreign interference in U.S. presidential elections, especially with regard to Russia.
On Sunday, Schiff tore into the Trump administration over what he views as an effort to downplay the threat of Russian interference in the November election, during an interview on CNN.
“They’re going to put it in writing now instead of giving an oral briefing — that doesn’t make any sense unless the goal is not to allow members of Congress, the representatives of the American people, to ask questions,” Schiff said. “Concealing the truth is concealing Russians are again intervening to help the president in his reelection,” Schiff said.
Schiff also told CNN that Congress may “certainly” subpoena U.S intelligence officials to testify on election interference before the November election.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) expressed a similar sentiment during an interview on ABC News on Sunday, calling Ratcliffe’s move a “complete outrage” and that the House will have to “subpoena” the Ratcliffe for information.
On the other hand, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, brushed off concerns over Ratcliffe ending in-person election security briefings.
During an interview on CNN on Sunday, Johnson called the Democrats’ uproar over Ratcliffe’s move “blown so way out of proportion.”
“I can probably count on one or two fingers the things that are actually classified in those briefings,” Johnson said.
Watch Ratcliffe’s remarks below:
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe defends scaling back in-person election security briefings to Congress pic.twitter.com/YKf2sjtI1S
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) August 30, 2020