Senator Angus King Slams Ending Election Security Briefings as ‘Pre-Cover-Up’
Senator Angus King (I-ME) on Monday excoriated Director of National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe’s cancellation of congressional briefings on election security as a “pre-cover-up” of the Trump Administration’s complicity in Russia’s attacks on American democracy.
Ratcliffe canceled all future congressional election security briefings and will instead submit “intelligence products” in writing, as outlined in a letter he sent to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on Friday.
“I can’t get into the head of these people, but we have a president who never likes to hear the word ‘Russia,’ at least not in the context of the relationships or of Russia meddling in our elections,” King, who caucuses with Democrats and serves on the Senate Armed Services, Intelligence, Rules, and Energy and Natural Resources Committees, said on CNN.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME) on intel director's decision to no longer brief Congress on election security: "I hate to say this, but it looks like a pre-cover-up … it looks like they're trying to keep this information from the public." pic.twitter.com/hiFK7eYE5E
— The Recount (@therecount) August 31, 2020
“I hate to say this but it looks like a pre-cover-up. It looks like they don’t want to share the information, they’re covering up information,” he added. “I don’t know what they have or don’t have, but it looks like they’re trying to keep this information from the public so when everybody goes to vote on Nov. 3, they won’t know the extent to which they’ve been attempted to be influenced by the Russians or some other country.”
King’s ire is shared among lawmakers in both parties on the Hill.
On Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) blasted the DNI’s move, arguing that the public has a right to know that foreign adversaries – Russia, China, and Iran – are once again interfering in American elections. Russia, however, remains the biggest external threat to American democratic cohesion, having significantly expanded its “active measures” over the last four years.
“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” Pelosi and Schiff said in a statement. “This intelligence belongs to the American people, not the agencies which are its custodian. And the American people have both the right and the need to know that another nation, Russia, is trying to help decide who their president should be.”
Schiff expanded on this on Sunday.
“This intelligence paid for by taxpayers doesn’t belong to Donald Trump, it doesn’t belong to the intelligence agencies, it belongs to the American people,” Schiff said on CNN. “The agencies are merely the custodians of that information,” Schiff continued. “And the American people ought to know what Russia is doing, they ought to know their President is unwilling to stand up to Vladimir Putin… that information belongs to the American people, it doesn’t belong to Donald Trump.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, also expressed anger over Ratcliffe’s decision.
“Congressional oversight of intelligence activities now faces a historic crisis,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “Intelligence agencies have a legal obligation to keep Congress informed of their activities.”
Rubio also parroted President Donald Trump’s accusations that elected officials and their offices have been leaking classified information to the public, though he stopped short of pointing fingers at anyone specifically.
“Members of Congress have a legal obligation to not divulge classified information,” Rubio said. “In my short time as Acting Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have witnessed firsthand how this delicate balance has been destroyed.”
Schiff, meanwhile, denounced Trump’s claims that he and other Democrats are leaking classified intelligence.
“I haven’t,” Schiff said. “My staff hasn’t. … Leaks are always improper and sometimes they’re illegal. But of course this is a falsehood, yet again, another lie by the President.”