There’s no law that says the executive branch has to brief Congress on all intelligence matters. The practice is a courtesy offered by the president to congressmen of both parties.
The briefings are supposed to be classified. But if that’s true, why do they always seem to end up on the front pages of the Washington Post and New York Times the very next day?
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe informed the House and Senate that the administration would no longer give in-person intelligence briefings on election security to members of Congress. Instead, they will give written briefings because Congress leaks like a sieve.
The move has enraged congressional Democrats, who have long charged the Trump administration with downplaying threats to U.S. elections from foreign actors, especially Russia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement that ODNI canceled separate briefings that had been scheduled for September before the intelligence committees and all members of Congress.
“This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy,” Schiff and Pelosi said.
I guess because liberal Democrats have to read the briefings instead of sitting there and listening, it’s a “shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility” to give Democrats copy for their friends in the media.
Sen. Marco Rubio, acting chair of the Senate intelligence committee, and Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, released separate statements on the administration’s decision, with Rubio excoriating those who leak classified information while urging Ratcliffe to “continue to fulfill” his obligations to fully brief Congress, and Warner casting the decision as “outrageous” and “an unprecedented attempt to politicize” the issue.
Revealing classified information is a crime so maybe we should arrest the speaker of the House.
ODNI officials were particularly angry about a leak from an all-House classified briefing led by top counterintelligence official Bill Evanina late last month, where Pelosi accused him of keeping Americans in the dark about the details of Russia’s continued interference in the 2020 campaign.
Evanina ultimately acknowledged in that briefing that Russia is again trying to boost President Donald Trump’s reelection and denigrate his opponent, Joe Biden. In a statement at the time, an ODNI official said Evanina was “incredibly disappointed in the inability of some to protect classified information they are legally obligated to safeguard and instead attempt to use it for partisan gain.”
The reason we know anything about Russian interference in the election is that we obviously have a source or sources high up in the Kremlin. Leaking any information about what we know could end up burning a source. At the very least, it makes the Russian government more careful.
The briefings and the information they contain play very nicely into the Democratic narrative about Trump being a Russian agent. The Kremlin wants to help its old buddy Trump get re-elected and is trying to influence the electorate. No one believes it but rabid anti-Trumpers and 5-year-old kids. But with the election becoming a race to see who can turn out more of their base, both sides are hitting themes that they believe will boost turnout from their most rabid supporters.
Ratcliffe is 100 percent correct in limiting Democrats to written briefings. They can control what information Democrats are able to leak to make sure it doesn’t damage sources and methods. Pelosi and Schiff can bellyache all they want, they really don’t have an argument.