Ratcliffe Defends Halting Election Briefings, Says Congress Is Leaking Classified Information

August 30, 2020 Updated: August 30, 2020

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said it’s necessary to scale back election security briefings in person to Congress because of leaks.

Over the weekend, reports said Ratcliffe and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) told the House and Senate intelligence committees that it will still provide written briefings on election security matters. Ratcliffe, in letters to the panels, said that leaks from members of Congress were a primary reason for the change.

Ratcliffe said on Fox News that he had been frequently briefing “not just the oversight committees but every member of Congress.”

But, he said, “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.”

He said that it was designed “to create a narrative that simply isn’t true, that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China.”

“I don’t mean to minimize Russia. They are a serious national security threat, but day in, day out, the threats that we face from China are significantly greater,” Ratcliffe said. “Anyone who says otherwise is just politicizing intelligence for their own narrative.”

On Aug. 28, Ratcliffe said to lawmakers 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,” adding that he will protect his sources.

It prompted a critical comment from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), accusing the Trump administration of pushing a narrative to downplay Russian election interference efforts.

“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 told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Concealing the truth is concealing Russians are again intervening to help the president in his reelection.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign also asserted that Ratcliffe’s decision is aiding Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

“President Trump is hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy and cover his horrific failures to lead our country through the multiple crises we are facing. And he does not want the American people to know the steps Vladimir Putin is taking to help Trump get re-elected,” Biden said in a statement.

Chinese Threat

The ODNI’s office in July indicated in a bombshell report that China, Iran, and Russia are actively seeking to influence and undermine the November election.

The head of U.S. counterintelligence, William Evanina, placed China on top of the list of threats, noting that Beijing is ramping up its influence efforts by attempting to shape U.S. policy, pressuring political figures, and countering criticism of China.

“Beijing recognizes its efforts might affect the presidential race,” Evanina said in July.

joe biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden accepts the Democratic presidential nomination during a speech delivered for the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., on Aug. 20, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Earlier in August, Chinese state-run media mouthpiece the Global Times said it would prefer a Biden presidency to President Donald Trump.

“But tactically, the U.S. approach would be more predictable, and Biden is much smoother to deal with than Trump—a viewpoint that is shared by many countries,” it stated.

In the meantime, top Democrats in the House and Senate have frequently said that Russia is again attempting to help Trump win reelection without making mention of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts.

“What I think is happening here is the Democratic Party and the Chinese Communist Party have entered into a common cause to defeat Donald J. Trump, and their whole strategy is based on blaming this administration for a global pandemic created by the Chinese Communist Party,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told reporters several weeks ago.