Top Democrats Request FBI Information About Interference From Foreign Elections Directed To Congress

Washington Democratic congressional leaders issued a joint letter Monday to FBI Director Chris Wray requesting a “defensive counterintelligence briefing” on election security for all members of Congress before the August recess, in a sign that the Concerns about possible foreign interference are increasing as the November elections approach.

The letter, sent last week by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee member Mark Warner, and Chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff says leaders “believe it is imperative that the FBI provide classified defensive information to all members of Congress.”

“We are very concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation to influence Congressional activity, public debate, and the November presidential elections,” Democrats declared. He wrote The letter was dated July 13 and asked Wray to respond on Monday. The FBI acknowledged receipt of the letter but declined to comment further when requested by CBS News.

The letter includes a heading that says “unclassified when separated from attachment,” suggesting that the request is based at least in part on classified intelligence. The four lawmakers are part of the Band of 8, a select group that is briefed by the executive branch on highly classified intelligence matters.

“To ensure a clear and unambiguous record of the counterintelligence threats of concern, the four attached to the letter a classified addendum that relies, in large part, on the reports and analyzes of the Executive Branch,” said a congressional official.

The letter did not specify in detail what prompted the request for information for all members, but its publication follows a similar request by Democratic Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon, the highest-ranking members, respectively, of the Senate Committee. on National Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC) and the Senate Finance Committee. The two lawmakers wrote to their Republican counterparts last week renewing a request for a briefing by the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force and other intelligence officials regarding certain Ukrainian operatives and the materials they had offered to the committees.

Senator Ron Johnson, president of HSGAC, has been leading an investigation at Hunter Biden, the son of presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, whose job for a natural gas company was at the center of the events that led to President Trump the removal process.

“As committees tasked with safeguarding our financial and national security systems, we have a responsibility to fully understand the national security and counterintelligence implications of interference in foreign elections and their ongoing investigative work,” Peters and Wyden wrote last week. .

In a statement Monday, HSGAC spokesman Austin Altenburg said committee staff had already received a briefing on the matter and that Johnson had requested an additional briefing for members. “That briefing did not occur in part because the agencies requested additional information from minority personnel, who have not followed these requests since mid-May,” said Altenburg.

Peters and Wyden’s letter cites recent reports from the Washington Post documenting interactions between various Ukrainian officials, some of whom have known ties to Russian intelligence services, and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. Giuliani has openly spoken about his efforts to obtain tapes and documents from conversations Biden had with Ukrainian politicians while he was vice president. The former New York mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Some materials, including edited recordings of Biden speaking with then-President Petro Poroshenko about the impeachment of Ukraine’s attorney general at the time, Viktor Shokin, have already been publicly released by a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker whose father served as an officer in the KGB.

Biden publicly and, as a matter of American policy, led a group of Western countries calling for the removal of Shokin, who was widely regarded as tolerant of corruption rooted in Ukraine. The former vice president does not mention either his son or Burisma in any of the recordings.

Some of the Ukrainian officials said in interviews quoted by the Post that more materials about Biden would be published later in the summer or closer to the US election. Its timing and objective recall the 2016 election interference efforts by the Russian government, which the US intelligence community concluded that it used a combination of influence campaigns on social media platforms and the armed release of pirated information. to undermine the Clinton campaign while helping then-candidate Trump’s chances of choice.

On Friday, Biden said he had received intelligence information showing that Russia and China were involved in activities designed to delegitimize the outcome of the presidential election.

“We have known this before, and I guarantee that I know it now, because now I receive reports again. The Russians are still committed to trying to delegitimize our electoral process. Done,” Biden said. It did not specify what type of reports it received or how regularly it received them.

In a statement Monday, Biden said he was “notifying the Kremlin and other foreign governments” and warned that any interference would be seen in rapid retaliation if the White House wins.

“If I am elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our elections as an act of confrontation that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the government of the interfering nation,” he said. “I will direct the United States Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered or attempted to interfere with the United States elections. I will direct my administration to take advantage of all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. ”

An official with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) told CBS News that the office had been consistently providing election security briefings to relevant political stakeholders. ODNI announced in May that the briefings would be chaired by Bill Evanina, director of the National Center for Counterintelligence and Security.

“ODNI has been providing robust intelligence on intelligence on electoral security to Hill’s campaigns, political organizations and leaders,” the official said. “In public settings, ODNI previously warned about nation states seeking to influence or interfere in the upcoming elections.”

“Director Evanina and the ODNI Election Threat Executive continue to closely support and coordinate with the FBI, DHS and the interagency agency as part of the Administration’s entire government efforts to secure the 2020 election,” said the official.

Bo Erickson, Paula Reid and Julia Kimani Burnham contributed to this report.