Politico

Ron Johnson: End of election security briefings not a big deal


Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson said Sunday that concerns over the end of in-person election security briefings to House and Senate intel committees were an overreaction.

“This is being blown so way out of proportion. I can probably count on one or two fingers the things that are actually classified in those briefings,” Johnson said in a contentious interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.“ “There is no surprise here.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence told House and Senate intelligence committees in a later dated Aug. 28 that it will still provide written briefings on election security issues. In-person briefings, however, would no longer be provided due to leaks from Congress, according to Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.

When asked by Bash whether he believed Russia was actively working to destabilize the 2020 election, Johnson said he did. But the Wisconsin Republican also said that Democrats’ claims that the Trump campaign colluded with the country were “doing Putin’s work for him” and took a dig at the California Democrat who is the House intelligence chair.

We know “that foreign actors are trying to influence, trying to destabilize our political system,” Johnson said. “What Adam Schiff did with this false narrative, what the news media did in terms of false Russian collusion with the Trump campaign narrative, a criminal investigation, special counsel — that is what has destabilized our politics.

Critics of Ratcliffe’s change contend that ending the in-person briefings in favor of written statements would prevent members of Congress from questioning people working to ensure the security of U.S. elections.

In a later interview with Bash, Schiff said the written briefings weren’t enough and blasted President Donald Trump for trying to suppress information.

“You can state things in a written report that are not correct, and you can’t be subject to questioning about it,” Schiff said. “When you can hide behind documents or withhold documents and not have to answer questions about it, it lets you conceal the truth. And in this case, concealing the truth is concealing Russians are again intervening to help the president and the re-election.”

Trump suggested on Saturday during a roundtable in Orange, Texas, that Schiff was responsible for leaking information.

“Director Ratcliffe brought information into the committee, and the information leaked,” Trump said. “Whether it was Shifty Schiff or somebody else, they leaked the information. … And what’s even worse, they leaked the wrong information. And he got tired of it. So he wants to do it in a different forum, because you have leakers on the committee.”

The California Democrat pushed back on the assertion, insisting that neither he nor members of his staff have leaked classified information received in briefings.

“I haven’t, my staff hasn’t,” Schiff said. “I can’t speak for what all the members of the committee have done or not done including a lot of the Republican members.”

Schiff also didn’t rule out subpoenaing intelligence officials to testify before his committee on election security before November.

“That is certainly one of the tools we may use. We will compel the intelligence community to give Congress the information that we need,” he said. “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, they ought to know that senators like Ron Johnson are pushing a Kremlin false narrative about Joe Biden and doing it knowingly.”

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