In an echo of 2016, the intelligence community
reportedly has warned lawmakers that Russia is trying to influence the 2020
election in a briefing that drew the ire of President Trump and may have
prompted the ouster of acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph
Trump, still peeved by IC reports that Russia
hacked the DNC and launched a well-coordinated disinformation campaign to aid
in his election, berated Maguire after discovering Intelligence
Community (IC) Election Threats Executive (ETE) Shelby Pierson briefed
members of Congress, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who led the recent
effort to impeach the president, on the Russia’s latest attempts to interfere,
the New York Times reported
Pierson, the agency’s election security crisis
manager during the 2018 midterms, was named to the newly created Intelligence Community
(IC) Election Threats Executive (ETE) last July, tasked with serving as
the IC’s principal adviser on threats to elections and security as well as
coordinating election security initiatives across the IC. She leads the
Election Executive and Leadership Board created in 2019.
The president was afraid, the report said, that Schiff and other Democrats would “weaponize” the information against him. He reportedly learned about the briefing, the Washington Post said, from Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has sparked controversy for the way he handled the Russian probe when he led the House Intelligence Committee and his support of Trump’s claims of interference were little more than a hoax meant to delegitimize his presidency.
Maguire was replaced Wednesday by Trump loyalist
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany. Grennell’s appointment to
acting DNI drew immediate criticism because he, by and large, has no real
experience in the intelligence community, a mandate of the 9/11-inspired 2004
law that created the DNI position.
Acting DNI Maguire because his staff provided the candid conclusions of the
Intelligence Community to Congress regarding Russian meddling in the 2020
Presidential election, the President is not only refusing to defend against
foreign interference, he’s inviting it,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.,
chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
“Trump is trying to
whitewash or rewrite the narrative about Russia’s involvement in the election,”
the Times cited Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former intelligence leader, as saying.
“Grenell’s appointment suggests he is really serious about that.”
that Trump “has been in denial about foreign election interference for three
years because his ego cannot accept that Russia interfered on his behalf,”
Thompson said, ”From joking about foreign interference with Putin to today
installing an unqualified crony who belittles the threat of election
interference as Acting DNI, the President puts ego above country.”
Kash Patel, a former aide to Nunes and former aide at the National Security Council (NSC) who tried to sow doubts about the Russian investigation, will join Grenell at the DNI as an aide, according to a Politico report.