DHS reportedly held intelligence bulletin about Russia’s plot to smear Biden
The Department of Homeland Security in July held up publishing an intelligence bulletin warning of a Russian scheme to spread misinformation concerning “allegations about the poor mental health” of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, according to an ABC report on Wednesday.
The report, titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” was turned over to the agency’s legislative and public affairs office for review on July 7, the report on ABC’s “Good Morning America” said.
The bulletin wasn’t intended to be distributed to the public, but to federal, state and local law enforcement officials two days later, ABC said, citing emails and a draft of the document.
An hour after it was submitted, a top DHS official put a hold on it.
“Please hold on sending this one out until you have a chance to speak to [acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf],” wrote DHS chief of staff John Gountanis, according to an email obtained by ABC News.
The bulletin has yet to be distributed.
A DHS spokesperson confirmed the report was delayed in a statement to ABC News and explained that it did not meet the agency’s standards.
But the draft bulletin concludes that analysts determined with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.”
“High confidence means what it sounds like — that they are highly confident that their assessment is accurate, and they don’t use that language very often,” Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, told ABC News.
The bulletin also raises concerns about Chinese and Iranian efforts to criticize President Trump.
Trump and his Republican allies have made allegations about whether the former vice president is mentally up to handling the tasks of the White House.
In an interview in July with Fox News, Trump said Biden will fail to win in November because “he’s mentally shot.”
“You know why I won’t lose? Because the country, in the end, they’re not going to have a man who — who’s shot,” Trump predicted. “He’s shot, he’s mentally shot.”
The development comes as the Trump administration has said it would end in-person briefings about election security to Congress.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe defended that decision on Fox News on Sunday as a means to protect classified material.
“Within minutes of one of those briefings ending, a number of members of Congress went to a number of different outlets and leaked classified information for political purposes,” Ratcliffe told host Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures.”
“To create a narrative that simply isn’t true, that somehow Russia is a greater national security threat than China,” he said.
Ratcliffe said his office would send lawmakers written reports instead.
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