The Russian government attacked the 2016 election to help Donald Trump. In the years since, various intelligence officials have publicly stated that Vladimir Putin intends to intervene again in the 2020 election. But Trump doesn’t want to hear that—and doesn’t want the public to know that. Days after intelligence officials in February told House lawmakers during a classified briefing that Russia was already interfering in this year’s election and once again preferred Trump, an irate Trump ousted acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and replaced him with a loyalist. In an interview with Mother Jones, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, says that since then the Trump administration has been covering up intelligence on Russian interference.
Schiff notes that the danger of foreign intervention in the election “predominantly comes from Russia. They have never really stopped being at it, in terms of their social media campaign.” A big problem, he points out, is that the US intelligence community, under Trump, cannot be relied upon to highlight and combat this threat: “We cannot count on the intelligence community to speak truth to power, to inform the Congress and the American people about what we’re seeing in terms of Russian interference.”
Listen to David Corn’s in-depth interview with Rep. Adam Schiff on this week’s edition of the Mother Jones Podcast.
The Maguire firing, Schiff says, was a sign that Trump will not allow the intelligence community to share with Congress information about Russian interference. “Since that time,” Schiff remarks, “I think what we’ve been briefed [on foreign intervention in the election] has been dumbed down.” He adds, “We’ve already since seen Director Maguire was fired, in the briefing that we’ve had since and in our access to information since, a real constriction of frank and candid information about what the Russians are doing…It’s already had that impact. Now even before Maguire was fired, there were materials that we had been requesting that we knew were in existence that had been compiled for us that they were refusing to turn over.” These materials, Schiff says, related to Russian efforts to intervene directly in the US election and through Ukraine: “We’ve seen interconnection between Russian efforts to interfere through social media in our election and Russian efforts to interfere potentially through third countries like Ukraine.”
Schiff, who led the House Democrats’ impeachment effort against Trump, now doubts that the intelligence community will keep Congress fully informed on Russian intervention. Noting his admiration for the workforce of the intelligence community, he says, “Sadly, I think the intelligence agencies may have been among the last to fall in the sense of succumbing to pressure by the Trump administration. But they, like so many other departments and agencies, now are not as forthcoming as they had been, and I think that places the country at greater risk.”
Schiff says it will be tough for the Democrats alone to thwart another Russian attack on another US election. “It is going to require,” he says, “people of good faith within the GOP to devote themselves to protecting our democracy, not this cult of personality around this president. Maybe the pandemic will bring this about or maybe it won’t. It’s a very difficult job for one party to do.”