Whistleblower Says Trump Aides Suppressed Russia Evidence

September 10, 2020by Chris Strohm, Bloomberg News (TNS)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Trump administration appointees suppressed intelligence on Russian election interference and the threat from white supremacists, according to a whistleblower complaint filed by the Department of Homeland Security’s former intelligence chief.

The complaint by Brian Murphy alleges interference from officials including Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, Acting DHS Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

In May, Wolf instructed Murphy to stop providing intelligence assessments on Russian election meddling and start reporting instead on interference activities by China and Iran, according to the complaint, which was released Wednesday by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

“Mr. Wolf stated that these instructions specifically originated from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien,” according to the complaint. “Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Wolf he would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger.”

On July 7, the department’s chief of staff sent an email to Murphy directing him to stop dissemination of intelligence products regarding Russian disinformation efforts because it “made the president look bad,” according to the complaint filed with the DHS inspector general.

A department spokesman, in a statement Wednesday night, said, “we flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy’s claim.”

“DHS looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy,” added the spokesman, Alexei Woltornist.

“DHS is working to address all threats to the homeland regardless of ideology,” Woltornist said. “The acting secretary is focused on thwarting election interference from any foreign powers and attacks from any extremist group.”

Andrew Bates, a campaign spokesman for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said in a statement that “if true, these latest revelations cement a pattern of high-ranking Trump administration officials not only keeping law enforcement officials and the American people in the dark about assaults on our democracy, but corrupting intelligence processes to benefit the president politically.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said the complaint shows “how dangerous and harmful” it is that the administration has ended in-person briefings to Congress about foreign interference in the election in favor of written summaries.

“If written products are being altered for political reasons, or worse withheld entirely, how can the American people trust that this administration will inform voters on how foreign powers are trying to influence them, or where the threats really come from, and protect our national security?” the California Democrat said in a statement.

Murphy also alleges he was told by Cuccinelli to downplay the threat of white supremacists in favor of promoting the narrative that left-wing groups were more threatening, according to the complaint.

Wolf and Cuccinelli told Murphy to modify intelligence assessments to match public comments by President Donald Trump about anarchist groups, including antifa, according to the complaint.

Murphy alleges other wrongdoing, including being told to identify “deep state” officials who compiled intelligence reports so that they could be fired or reassigned.

In August, Murphy was demoted from his post as DHS’s principal deputy undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis on the grounds that he had improperly gathered information on journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon. He became assistant to the deputy under secretary for the DHS Management Division.

The complaint says DHS never knowingly or deliberately collected information on journalists, and Murphy would have resisted doing so.

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With assistance by Tyler Pager.

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©2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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