Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed the national intelligence director’s office on Saturday for its abrupt decision to halt in-person congressional election security briefings amid reports concluding that Russia is trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential race.
The Democratic presidential nominee said in a statement that the move by the national intelligence director, John Ratcliffe, “is nothing less than a shameless partisan manipulation” to protect President Donald Trump’s personal interests and is “how American national security and sovereignty are violated.”
“The tools of our government are meant to defend the American people and our system of governance against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Biden said. “And yet, at a moment when we know that our elections are under threat from foreign interference ― and when the President of the United States has invited interference from Russia and China ― the director of national intelligence is failing to provide full information about the danger.”
Ratcliffe told Congress earlier Saturday that his office will no longer give in-person election security briefings on Capitol Hill, raising concern among lawmakers about the public’s right to know about any foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election. Trump said that Ratcliffe made the decision because the administration “got tired” of election security intelligence reportedly leaking from Congress.
Lawmakers will supposedly continue to receive written briefings, a move Ratcliffe said “helps ensure … that the information [the national intelligence director’s office] provides the Congress in support of your oversight responsibilities on election security, foreign malign influence and election interference is not misunderstood nor politicized.”
The decision came soon after counterintelligence chief William Evanina announced that U.S. intelligence officials determined that the Kremlin is trying to smear Biden in order to sway the election in Trump’s favor, which intelligence officials said also happened in the 2016 election.
Ratcliffe defended his decision Sunday, downplaying Russian interference while saying that China “is the greatest threat we face” ahead of the elections. But Democrats erupted in outrage over Ratcliffe’s efforts to decrease transparency in election security information.
“There can be only one conclusion: President Trump is hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy and cover his horrific failures to lead our country through the multiple crises we are facing,” Biden said in his statement. “And he does not want the American people to know the steps Vladimir Putin is taking to help Trump get reelected or why Putin is eager to intervene, because Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been a gift to the Kremlin.”