Washington (AP) — Members of the House and Senate are receiving classiﬁed brieﬁngs Tuesday on election security, the ﬁrst since intelligence ofﬁcials warned lawmakers of new Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 election.
The brieﬁngs come amid voting in the 2020 presidential primaries and after intelligence ofﬁcials told lawmakers last month that Russia is still trying to to sow discord in the American electorate.
Lawmakers were told in a classiﬁed brieﬁng in February that Russia continues to have a preference for President Donald Trump, after also trying to help him in the 2016 presidential contest, according to ofﬁcials familiar with the brieﬁng. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running in the Democratic primary to challenge Trump, acknowledged that he was also briefed by U.S. ofﬁcials about Russian efforts to boost his candidacy.
The Russian efforts are aimed at undermining public conﬁdence in the integrity of U.S. elections and stirring general chaos in American politics, intelligence experts say.
Intelligence ofﬁcials from seven agencies — including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and multiple intelligence agencies — will brief the House and then the Senate Tuesday afternoon.
The Russian interference is expected to be a topic of questioning, along with efforts to secure state and local election systems that were scanned by Russia in 2016. There is no evidence that any votes were changed.
Shortly after the news reports of Russian interference in the 2020 contest last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted: “We await the election security brieﬁng for Members on March 10.” One ofﬁcial who will not be brieﬁng lawmakers is Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist who is serving as acting national intelligence director. Grenell, criticized by Democrats as being unﬁt for the job, was originally on the list of ofﬁcials being sent to Congress by the Trump administration but was later replaced by another ofﬁcial from the ofﬁce of the Director of National intelligence, according to two people familiar with the schedule. The people requested anonymity to discuss the classiﬁed brieﬁng,
The ofﬁce of the DNI later denied in a tweet that Grenell backed out of the brieﬁng.
Trump has nominated Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe as a permanent replacement for Grenell, but it’s unclear if he will have the needed support in the Senate for conﬁrmation. Trump also nominated Ratcliffe for the post last year, then withdrew the nomination after Democrats questioned his experience and news reports challenged the accuracy of Ratcliffe’s resume.
The president has long questioned whether Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and has called that theory a “hoax” despite the determination of the nation’s intelligence agencies that it happened. On Tuesday, he tweeted that “there is another Russia, Russia, Russia meeting today.”
Trump falsely said that the meeting would be headed by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, “so I wouldn’t expect too much!” Trump has often criticized Schiff, who is not leading the brieﬁng, since he led the House’s impeachment investigation.
Schiff tweeted in response that Trump was wrong, and that the ofﬁcials providing the brieﬁng are agency heads and senior ofﬁcials.
“They are your own people,” Schiff tweeted to Trump. “We will insist on the truth, whether you like it or not.”