Report: Intel officials say Russia boosting Trump candidacy
Washington – Intelligence officials say Russia is interfering with the 2020 election to try to help President Donald Trump get reelected, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The Times said intelligence officials told lawmakers about the interference in a Feb. 13 closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee. It said the disclosure angered Trump, who complained the Democrats would use the information against him. He berated the outgoing director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, the next day.
The Times attributed the report to five unidentified people familiar with the matter. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the account.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the 2016 election through social media campaigns and stealing and distributing emails from Democratic accounts. They say Russia was trying to boost Trump’s campaign and add chaos to the American political process. Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic,” but he did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump has doubted the findings of Russian interference.
In the House briefing, Trump’s allies challenged the DNI’s chief election official, Shelby Pierson, who delivered the conclusions, saying Trump has been tough on Russia, the Times reported. But Trump has also spoken warmly of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and withdrawn troops from areas, like Syria, where Moscow could fill the vacuum. He delayed military aid last year to Ukraine, a Russian adversary – a decision that was at the core of his impeachment proceedings.
The Times said Trump was angry that the House briefing was made before the panel’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment proceedings.
Trump on Thursday formally appointed Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany and a loyal supporter, to replace Maguire as the new acting director of national intelligence. Maguire was required to step down soon under federal law governing acting appointments. The Times cited two administration officials as saying the timing, after the intelligence briefing, was coincidental.
At an open hearing this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Judiciary Committee that Russia was engaged in “information warfare” heading into the November election, but that law enforcement had not seen efforts to target America’s infrastructure. He said Russia is relying on a covert social media campaign to divide the American public and sow discord.