May 6, 2022
Former President Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security delayed and altered an intelligence report related to Russian interference in the 2020 election—making changes that “appear to be based in part on political considerations,” according to a newly released watchdog report.
The April 26 Homeland Security inspector general’s assessment provides a damning look at the way DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis dealt with intelligence related to Russia’s efforts to interfere in the United States, stating the department had deviated from its standard procedures in modifying, assessments related to Moscow’s targeting of the 2020 presidential election, reports CNN.
The conclusion that Trump’s appointee appeared to have tried to downplay Russian meddling in a key intelligence report is the latest example of how his aides managed his aversion to any information about how Russia might be helping his election prospects. According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Trump officials tried to avoid the topic during meetings and at hearings, because he would become enraged and upset when Russian meddling came up.
The U.S. intelligence community announced during the 2020 campaign that Russia was actively meddling in the election to weaken then-candidate Joe Biden. At the time, Trump downplayed those findings and promoted false claims about Biden that aligned with Russia’s disinformation efforts. The IG report addresses past suspicions that Trump appointees distorted some intelligence reports to foster a more Trump-friendly narrative.
The watchdog found, for example, that then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf had participated in the review process “multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product,” which caused delays and may have helped create the “perception” that assessments were changed for political reasons.
“We determined that the Acting Secretary’s involvement led to the rare occurrence of I&A ceasing dissemination of a product after it had already been approved by the mission manager and circulated via advanced notification,” the report states.
“The delays and deviation from I&A’s standard process and requirements put I&A at risk of creating a perception of politicization. This conclusion is supported by I&A’s own tradecraft assessment, which determined that the product might be viewed as politicized,” it continues.
The report stems from previous allegations that the Trump Administration downplaying Russian interference. CNN first reported in September 2020 a whistleblower complaint alleging that top political appointees in DHS repeatedly instructed career officials to modify intelligence assessments to suit Trump’s agenda by downplaying Russia’s efforts to interfere in the United States.
The whistleblower claimed that Wolf had instructed DHS officials to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference” and, instead, focus their efforts on gathering information related to activities being carried out by China and Iran.
Research contact: @CNN