US intelligence chief John Ratcliffe on Sunday defended his move to end personal security briefings for elections in Congress, blaming a “pandemic” of legislative leaks.
The director of the National Intelligence Service wrote to senior lawmakers from both parties on the House and Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday explaining the change.
The announcement sparked allegations by high-ranking Democrats that the government was covering up Russian aid for President Donald Trump’s re-election offer.
Ratcliffe expressed frustration over the leaks of a counterintelligence press conference held by Congress a month ago and informed lawmakers that China, Russia and Iran are all trying to interfere.
“Yet in a matter of minutes … a number of members of Congress were going to a number of different publications and disclosing classified information,” Ratcliffe told Fox News.
He said the spills wanted to “create a narrative that is just not true that Russia somehow poses a greater national security threat than China.”
“I will continue to update Congress. But we had a pandemic of information leaked from the intelligence community. And I will take the steps to make sure this stops,” he added.
The move comes two months before the general election, with Trump downplaying the threat of foreign interference, which he believes is politicized by the Democrats.
“I don’t want to minimize Russia – they are a serious threat to national security – but every day the threats we face from China are much greater,” said Ratcliffe.
“And anyone who sees intelligence knows that, and anyone who says otherwise politicizes intelligence only for their own narrative.”
The briefings will continue to be in writing, but House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said lawmakers have effectively been denied the opportunity to question what they have been told.
“It doesn’t make sense unless the goal is not to allow members of Congress, the representatives of the American people, to ask questions,” the senior Democrat told CNN.
“It’s an illogical inconsistency to say that we’re going to get it on paper so it doesn’t leak instead of talking to Congress – it doesn’t make sense,” he told CNN.
He accused the White House of telling a false story that the interference in the Russian elections to help Trump was “no different from other countries.”
The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released the most detailed report yet on Russia’s interference in 2016 in early August.
It accused the Trump campaign of welcoming Moscow’s help and provided new information about contacts between Russian intelligence officials and Trump’s inner circle.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)