U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia is interfering in the country’s 2020 election in an effort to help re-elect President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported Thursday.
One source said Trump complained that his Democratic Party opponents would “weaponize” the intelligence about his support from Russian operatives eight months ahead of the vote. Moscow has consistently denied interfering in the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections.
Trump berated the outgoing acting director of national intelligence for allowing the Feb. 13 closed intel briefing on Russian meddling to lawmakers to take place, The New York Times cited five unnamed people familiar with the matter as saying.
A week after the briefing, Trump announced that he plans to replace the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, with a supporter of his policies, Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. Observers linked Grenell’s appointment to Trump’s longstanding skepticism toward the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help him get elected.
“Trump is trying to whitewash or rewrite the narrative about Russia’s involvement in the election,” former intelligence official Andrea Kendall-Taylor told the publication.
Trump was particularly irritated by the presence of Congressman Adam Schiff, a vocal Trump critic and impeachment leader, at the briefing, The New York Times reported. His Republican allies were said to have challenged the intelligence community’s conclusions, saying that he had been “tough” on Russia.
The briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, which Schiff chairs, included information about Russian plans to interfere both with the Democratic primaries and the Nov. 3 general election, according to The New York Times.
Both Republicans and Democrats were reported to have asked the intelligence agencies to provide evidence for their conclusion that Russia is working to re-elect Trump.
High-level Russian officials have not yet commented on The New York Times’ report.
U.S. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller said last year that Russia used social media accounts in an attempt to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.
This story initially said that U.S. intelligence had told Trump that Russia is meddling in the election. It has been corrected to say that the intelligence agencies had been addressing lawmakers in a closed briefing.