Whistle-Blower Says He Was Told To Downplay Russian 2020 Election Interference
By RFE/RL September 10, 2020
A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence analyst says in a whistle-blower complaint that the head of the department told him to stop reporting on Russian election interference and focus instead on interference by China and Iran.
The official, Brian Murphy, said the acting secretary of DHS, Chad Wolf, told him twice within the last four months to withhold reporting on potential Russian threats to the U.S. election because it "made President [Donald] Trump look bad." He was told to emphasize potential threats from China and Iran instead.
Murphy said he objected because "it was improper to hold a vetted intelligence product for reasons for political embarrassment." Wolf then took steps to exclude Murphy from meetings on the subject, according to the complaint.
Murphy filed his whistle-blower complaint on September 8 with the inspector-general of DHS and it was made public by the House Intelligence Committee on September 9.
Murphy ran the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS until the end of July, when he was demoted. In his complaint he said Wolf told him the order to stifle reports on Russia originated from White House national-security adviser Robert O'Brien.
The White House denied the allegations, saying O'Brien "has never sought to dictate the intelligence community's focus on threats to the integrity of our elections or on any other topic."
DHS spokesman Alexei Woltornist said in response, "We flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy's claim."
Democrats say the accusations are the latest sign that the Trump administration is attempting to downplay Russian attempts to interfere in the November 3 election.
Representative Adam Schiff (Democrat-California) said the House Intelligence Committee had requested Murphy testify before it on September 21.
Schiff said Murphy's complaint "outlines grave and disturbing allegations" that senior White House and DHS officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit Trump politically.
There have been growing concerns in the United States about foreign attempts to interfere in the November 3 election.
In a statement on election interference on August 7, the director of the National Counterintelligence Security Center said many "foreign actors" had a preference in the U.S. election, but it was focusing its attention on the potential activity of Russia, China, and Iran.
The statement said China views Trump as "unpredictable" and does not want to see him win reelection. Russia is also interfering against Trump's opponent, Joe Biden, and an anti-Russia "establishment," while Tehran is looking to undermine democratic institutions, the statement said.
Following the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials determined that Russia interfered by mounting a computer-hacking and social-media manipulation campaign with the goal of boosting Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
U.S. officials have also said there were multiple foreign hacker efforts to penetrate voting systems in the 2018 congressional elections in what appeared to be a test run for 2020.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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