The nation’s top intelligence official is partially reversing course on his decision to scale back critical election-security briefings for lawmakers.
John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement Wednesday that he will continue to brief congressional leaders and the Senate and House intelligence committees on efforts to secure the 2020 vote from foreign interference — though his office will no longer conduct briefings for all lawmakers, citing the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.
The decision is a significant reversal from last month, when Ratcliffe informed lawmakers that he was canceling all in-person intelligence briefings for the committees, which have direct jurisdiction over the intelligence community. But his new posture is unlikely to assuage the concerns of House Democrats, who have insisted that briefings for the full House and Senate are critical to guard against election threats.
While Ratcliffe said Wednesday that he will continue to provide all lawmakers with written intelligence reports, his decision deprives them of the ability to ask questions and engage in a conversation with intelligence officials.
The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee welcomed Ratcliffe’s walkback.
In a joint statement, the committee’s Acting Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Ratcliffe “reaffirmed” that the historically bipartisan panel “will continue receiving briefings, including in-person, on all oversight topics — including election matters.”
“As we have in the past, the committee will continue to expect timely and complete information from our intelligence agencies,” they added.
Rubio told reporters that Ratcliffe is appearing before the committee next week.
“There’s never been any question in my mind that oversight committees that have oversight over the intelligence agencies are going to get briefings — like we do regularly, all the time. That’s going to continue,” Rubio said.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) confirmed that his committee was assured of an in-person briefing from Ratcliffe, but that a date and time had yet to be confirmed. The panel had initially been slated to receive an in-person briefing on Thursday.
Schiff described Ratcliffe’s reversal as the result of “extensive public criticism” and said Ratcliffe must also ensure that “all members and the American people” receive similar updates about foreign threats to the 2020 election.
Last month, Ratcliffe told congressional leaders that he would no longer provide those critical in-person briefings on election security, prompting widespread backlash.
His initial decision cited alleged leaks from earlier briefings. But it prompted bipartisan concerns and particular outrage from Democrats who said the Trump administration was trying to deprive Congress of evidence of Russian interference in the 2020 election, just weeks after intelligence officials confirmed publicly that the Kremlin was acting to boost President Donald Trump again and denigrate his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
Rubio suggested that he supports Ratcliffe’s latest directive.
“They’ll have the information. It’ll be available to them. They’ll be able to go in and read all of the material,” Rubio said in a brief interview, adding that with all-member briefings, “generally what that turns into is people leave those briefings and go out and turn it into political spin.”
Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) previously demanded that Ratcliffe reinstate all-member briefings on election security, which were initially scheduled to take place next week.