National Security Adviser Has Seen No Evidence of Russia Interfering to Help Trump

February 23, 2020 Updated: February 23, 2020
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White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said he’s seen no evidence of Russia interfering in the 2020 election to help President Donald Trump, according to an interview aired on ABC on Feb. 23.

O’Brien was responding to anonymously sourced media reports that claimed the intelligence community told lawmakers in a briefing that Russia is interfering to help reelect Trump.

“I haven’t seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump reelected,” O’Brien told ABC. “I think this is the same old story that we’ve heard before.

“We’ve been very tough on Russia, and we’ve been great on election security. So I think it’s a nonstory.”

O’Brien isn’t the only one disputing the reporting about the intelligence briefing. Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, told Fox News in an interview aired on Feb. 23 that there is no evidence that Russia favors Trump’s reelection.

“I think there’s not intelligence that said the Russians are trying to help Donald Trump win [the] election,” Short told Fox. “We know that foreign governments have been trying to interfere in elections to sow chaos.”

According to The New York Times, the briefing was provided to House lawmakers, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who led the House impeachment inquiry. Reports about the briefing were followed by the resignations of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire and the No. 2 official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Andrew Hallman.

O’Brien said that Maguire’s exit had nothing to do with the intelligence briefing.

“First of all, Joe Maguire wasn’t pushed out,” O’Brien said. “He was serving under the Vacancy Act. He was acting, and his term, I believe, was ending March 11 or March 2, like two weeks from now.”

Election threats executive Shelby Pierson was reportedly the person to voice the assessment that Russia was helping Trump. Lawmakers at the briefing reportedly pressed Pierson for evidence, but she didn’t provide any.

Then-DNI Dan Coats created the election threats executive position at the ODNI and appointed Pierson shortly before he resigned. The whistleblower who triggered the impeachment process referenced the Coats memo in his or her anonymous complaint. The ODNI has refused to release the memo, which isn’t classified.

In a separate briefing, the intelligence told Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that Russia favored him in the primary. Trump and congressional lawmakers were briefed on the intelligence as well, according to The Washington Post.

“I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said in a statement. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president, I will make sure that you do.”

Trump noted on Twitter that the reports on Sanders are part of a campaign to steal the Democratic nomination from Sanders.

“The reason for this is that the Do Nothing Democrats, using disinformation Hoax number 7, don’t want Bernie Sanders to get the Democrat Nomination, and they figure this would be very bad for his chances,” the president wrote. “It’s all rigged, again, against Crazy Bernie Sanders!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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