The top intelligence election security official in the U.S. will keep her job after overstating Russian interference in the 2020 election to Congress.
Shelby Pierson, the Intelligence Community Election Threats Executive, briefed Congress earlier this month and said that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election and was showing a preference for Donald Trump. But other officials said that was a “mischaracterization” and an “overstatement” of Russia’s intentions.
According to the national security officials, the US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with, but the US does not have evidence that Russia’s interference this cycle is aimed at reelecting Trump.
“The intelligence doesn’t say that,” one senior national security official told CNN. “A more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it’s a step short of that. It’s more that they understand the President is someone they can work with, he’s a dealmaker.”
I would say that telling Congress that Russia had a preference for Trump when they actually didn’t is a pretty big goof — especially considering what happened last time Congress was told that Russia was helping Trump.
But new ODNI Director Richard Grenell apparently thought it prudent to protect Pierson, despite her committing an error that should have cost the woman her job.
News that Pierson is staying put comes amid a shake-up atop the Office of the Director of National Intelligence leadership structure, as acting Director Joseph Maguire was replaced by US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who then quickly forced out the No. 2 intelligence official in the US government, Andrew Hallman.
Maguire formally resigned last week after Trump made it clear he would not be nominated for the full-time intelligence chief job, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN. The briefing Pierson gave to lawmakers was a key component behind his ouster, with a White House official telling CNN that the President became irate with Maguire over it.
Trump used Pierson’s gaffe as an excuse to can Maguire but why didn’t Pierson get the boot too?
Grenell is new to the job and may have realized that getting rid of Hallman would shake up his office already. Maybe in a few months, Grennel will ease Pierson out. She certainly deserves it. But perhaps Grenell thought canning Pierson would look too much like a purge.
Grenell had better be prepared to be grilled at his confirmation hearing. Democrats have brought out the long knives and will make his confirmation as painful as possible.