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Democrats’ noisy strategy to stop Russian electoral disruption

The statement, which also indicated that Iran and China prefer a Trump loss in November, was hailed by Democrats as supporting their strategy of relying on the administration for further revelations to help educate the public.

“Normally, the customer for the intelligence association is the president, the national security apparatus, the defense secretary and the congressmen. But every four years, the customer should be the American people, “Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, later said in an interview.

“They are the decision-makers on November 3. And they paid for this intelligence and they should be able to see it,”

; added King, who works with Democrats in the Senate.

Whether the Democrats succeed in their efforts to crush more information to the public sphere could be crucial in deterring Moscow’s latest intervention, they say, as well as in protecting Biden from the attacks that killed Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

And Democrats are unlikely to end their pressure yet. While some lawmakers acknowledged that the statement was indeed much more detailed, they said there was still conflict between Chinese and Iranian involvement in Russia’s more sophisticated efforts. Allegations about China and Iran in particular lack the degree of specificity that Evanina offered about Russia.

“Unfortunately, today’s statement still treats three actors of different intentions and abilities as equal threats to our democratic elections,” said President Nancy Pelosi (D-Caliph) and President of the Intelligence Service Adam Schiff (D-Caliph.) In a joint statement on Friday. .

Pelosi has taken the leading role in directing the party’s message of foreign interference in the election, in a shift from her strategy in 2016, when Barack Obama sat in the Oval Office and was the country’s highest democrat.

Increasingly, she is suing the intelligence community for withholding crucial details from the public, including information about the Kremlin’s intentions. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) wrote a public letter to the FBI last month calling for a congressional summary of “specific” threats to lawmakers.

Their demands come when intelligence officials have privately admitted to lawmakers in recent days that Russia is trying to increase Trump’s re-election chances and denigrate Biden, the nominee for the presumptive Democratic president.

Despite criticism from Pelosi and Schiff, the new revelation seemed to satisfy Senate Vice President Mark Warner, who issued a joint statement with committee chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Who generally praised Evanina for the revelations. King also praised the new releases.

“Exclaim Derkach, who is a Ukrainian associated with Russia – I think it’s important to know, because now that we see material with his name on it, we know where it came from,” King said.

The Democrats’ view is to avoid what many see as a mistake in 2016, when the Obama administration decided to sit on the most explosive details of Russia’s efforts to help Trump in the presidential election. At the time, Obama’s aides defended the decision as an attempt to avoid taking measures that Republicans would interpret as an attempt to influence the election. But both in real time and in retrospect, the top congressional Democrats saw Obama’s resilience as a significant miscalculation.

And this time, they are even more afraid that Trump – long upset by the notion that Russia helped him win the presidency – could try to squeeze evidence of Russian interference in 2020.

“Democrats were disappointed with the Obama administration’s handling of the threat in 2016, and we made it known – they lost valuable time in informing the public and inoculating them against Russia’s interference campaign,” acknowledged a senior House Democrat aide.

“But worse than not acting soon enough is to downplay the threat when you know it exists, create a false equality between countries and then try to confuse a party’s political advantage,” the aid continued. “This is what the Trump administration is doing.”

Evanina stressed on Friday that more public details will come, “in order to better inform Americans so that they can play a critical role in protecting our choices.”

Despite these assurances, senators who have been informed of the latest notification have collected their warnings in recent days.

“Shocked and terrified – I just left a 90-minute classified information about foreign evil threats against our elections,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) Wrote in a recent tweet. “From espionage to sabotage, Americans must see and hear these reports.”

“Ask a friend – what’s the point of spending billions of dollars on intelligence gathering if, when you discover a foreign agent trying to manipulate your country’s domestic policy, you keep it hidden and do nothing about it?” added Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

Ahead of Friday’s revelation from the administration, Democrats’ concerns about Russian interference in 2020 had reached such a fever that some even considered the most extreme step: publicly revealing classified intelligence in the House or Senate floor, where senators are protected from repercussions under the US speech or debate clause constitution.

“I’m not going to take anything off the table,” Warner, a member of the Gang of Eight, which receives the highest intelligence offered to Congress, said in an interview Thursday. “I have not given up hope that we will not get that information. But that is absolutely what the American people know. “

Murphy agreed that reading the most urgent intelligence on the Senate floor should be a last resort if the administration does not declassify it. But he said he would not be the one to take that step.

“I honestly do not know what additional information is available in Gang of Eight. So that speaks to my inability to determine strategy. But what I have seen is really important for the American public to know, “Murphy said in an interview. “I have no plans to disclose classified information, but in any form or form, if the administration is not prepared to tell the American people details of this disturbance, someone must do so.”

The speech or debate clause has rarely been used to justify the disclosure of classified information. In 1971, then late. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) read the Pentagon Papers in the congressional minutes and was immune to federal accusations because of these constitutional protections.

Warner, justifying his position, referred to countries that make their citizens “better equipped” by learning more about foreign efforts to interfere in their choices, and said the Trump administration should do the same without compromising sensitive intelligence sources. and methods.

He also said that the United States should listen to the mistakes of the Obama administration, which came under extensive scrutiny in a two-party Senate Intelligence Committee report on its handling of Russia’s interference.

“The idea that [the Trump administration] would not learn, and let knowledge of a Russian disinformation campaign carried out would be unavoidable, “Warner added.

However, several lawmakers believe that in the end it will not be necessary to disclose sensitive information on the Senate floor. Rubio, Warner’s counterpart on top of the intelligence committee, said Warner “has the right to do so” but called for caution.

“Ultimately, I suspect that if everyone is patient, you will find that professionals in the intelligence community, every week, release information in a way that does not jeopardize our sources and methods and give the American people what they want,” Rubio said. “So I think we’ll be in a different place in a couple of weeks.”

Intelligence officials began informing all lawmakers in the past week about the security of the election and the threats of foreign interference, as Democrats continued to urge the Trump administration to specify the threats publicly.

But Democrats say these steps do not replace Americans when information about a specific plot of land is known, especially with the election less than three months away. Other legislators are seeking immediate sanctions. For example, Rubio and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Have been pushing for legislation for months that would sanction Russia or any other country that has been implicated in the US election.

“None of these people are Republicans or Democrats,” Rubio said. “They want us to fight each other, and there are several nations involved in this.”

POLITICO has reported that in addition to their public letters, the House of Representatives and Senate Democrats called on the FBI to inform Congress of classified details about Derkach’s efforts to disseminate misinformation about Biden to congressional investigators.

The classified addition to their letter specifically mentions later. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) Inquiry into Biden and his son Hunter as a source of concern and claims that the GOP – led inquiry is using Russian disinformation to tarnish a political opponent. Johnson has denied the allegations.

Some Democrats, including Warner, have speculated that Evanina and others may face internally politically motivated pressure over how much information is to be revealed about Russia’s intentions, especially given how Trump may react. The president has refused to publicly condemn Russia for its involvement in the 2016 campaign and has questioned the intelligence community’s conclusion that the intervention was intended to help him win.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle still expect the intelligence community to reveal more information in the coming weeks. Senators emerging from classified information meetings with Evanina and National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe earlier this week said the Trump administration was preparing to release more information, in an apparent nod to Democrats’ concerns.

Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

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