Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe had said he would cease in-person congressional briefings to the Democrat-led House during the election cycle for fear of politically motivated and selective leaks.
Well, the briefings continued to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, but so did the politicization and the leaks.
Most notably, sources told The Hill, U.S. intelligence officials played up the election meddling efforts of China to the dismay of lawmakers seeking to hear more about Russia.
“The [intelligence community] has become aware of Chinese [election] influence operations targeting members of Congress at a rate of approximately six times that of Russia, and 12 times that of Iran,” an intelligence source told The Hill.
The importance put on the China meddling efforts, along with a downplaying of Russia threats, or specifics, reportedly irked some lawmakers.
“As we have underscored previously, it is clear that the ODNI is continuing to try to draw a false equivalence for political reasons between the actions of Russia and China,” according to a statement from an unnamed House Intelligence Committee member to The Hill. “It’s no secret that the Chinese have sought to influence U.S. policy and politicians, and will continue to do so.
“We must be on guard for that, but we must also not take our eye off the ball that Russia, and only Russia, is actively interfering in the 2020 elections to sway the outcome of the presidential race.”
The intelligence source told The Hill, China’s election meddling is less social media propaganda and more substantive, direct lobbying to congressional members to impact U.S. policy.
“Different countries interfere in different ways,” the source said. “China is influencing, policy and policy makers who hold congressional seats.”
Some former intelligence officials downplayed China’s election meddling as merely normal congressional lobbying.
“I think of [election] interference as an attack and meddling,” former ODNI staffer and ex-CIA Larry Pfeiffer told The Hill. “I just don’t see it as exactly the same thing as the Russians covertly manipulating social media.”
One former intelligence official rejects the dismissal of China’s election meddling intelligence because they want to hear about Russia’s efforts.
“The whole claim by Democrats with respect to Ratcliffe is that he is talking about the Chinese because he wants to avoid discussing Russian interference,” former GOP counsel to House Intelligence staffers Jamil Jaffer told The Hill. “The problem with that claim in this scenario is there’s a very real way you could think about what they may be doing as being related to election interference. While on the face it may not seem like it, there’s a lot of reasons why it might be just that.”
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