Donald Trump dismissed a report claiming his former acting Director of National Intelligence told Congress Russia wants him to win in November, claiming it’s just another Democrat ‘hoax.’
‘Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa. Hoax number 7!’ Trump lamented on Twitter Friday morning.
The president’s comments come after The New York Times published a report Thursday claiming Acting DNI Joseph Maguire told Congress during a classified briefing that the Kremlin wanted to see Trump win reelection because it would be better for their interests.
Maguire was recently ousted from his acting post and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell was appointed in his stead as Trump continues to search for a permanent director.
Donald Trump said reports that an intelligence community aides warned Congress that Russia wants him to win reelection is a ‘misinformation campaign’ and another ‘hoax’ created by Democrats
He was responding to a report that during a classified hearing, the Intelligence Committee was briefed that Russia felt another four years of Trump would be better for their agenda
Maguire’s aide, according to the Times report, told the House Intelligence Committee that Russia was attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections on the side of getting Trump back for another four years.
The committee members were briefed that Russia favors Trump and were told about its efforts to hack and attack election infrastructure and the Kremlin’s continued attempts to use social media platforms in its campaign of distrust.
Vladimir Putin’s operatives want to both help Trump and create public doubts about the outcome of the election, the officials briefed lawmakers during the session about ‘the integrity of our upcoming elections.’
One lawmaker told the Daily Beast that the officials briefed them that: ‘It continues with the same target, and the same purpose, and it’s clear that they [the Russians] favor one candidate over the other.
Trump was furious when he learned that Schiff had been briefed that intelligence officials believe Russia is trying to aid his re-election – and wrongly believed it was only the Democrat who had been briefed.
The president believed the information would be used against him, sources told the New York Times.
Meddling? A senior intelligence official told the House Intelligence Committee, which is headed by Trump’s impeachment rival Adam Schiff, that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to secure a second term for Donald Trump
Key figures: Rick Grenell, Donald Trump’s ultra-loyal ambassador to Germany was named Wednesday as the new acting director of national intelligence, succeeding Joseph Maguire – whose aide told Congress that Russia wanted a second term for the president and was interfering to help
Schiff was the lead Democratic house manager at Trump’s impeachment trial, which ended in his acquittal earlier this month.
In the wake of learning that Schiff had been briefed, Trump had a furious confrontation with the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire.
Maguire was replaced Wednesday night by Rick Grenell, Trump’s ultra-loyal ambassador to Germany.
The New York Times reported that two Trump officials said the timing was a coincidence and not because of the row about the briefing.
The official who told lawmakers Russia was meddling was named as Maguire’s aide Shelby Pierson, who serves as the intelligence community’s top election security official.
Trump blew up at Maguire in the Oval Office last week over what the president perceived as staff disloyalty, citing Pierson’s briefing.
That ruined Maguire’s chance of becoming the permanent intelligence chief, sources told The Washington Post.
Trump incorrectly believed Pierson gave the information exclusively to Schiff and gave Maguire a ‘dressing down’ that left him ‘despondent,’ sources told the newspaper.
Pierson chairs the Election Executive and Leadership Board, which was created in July 2019 to specifically deal with election security matters.
She gave the closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee last Thursday.
One of Trump’s Republican allies on the committee told him what she said, the Post reported.
Some of Trump’s biggest defenders during the House impeachment inquiry – including Reps. Devin Nunes and Elise Stefanik – sit on the intelligence panel.
The New York Times said that Pierson’s conclusion had set off a row among members of the Intel Committee.
Republicans on the committee, including ranking member Devin Nunes, attended the briefing and challenged Pierson about the conclusion.
They argued that Trump had taken action against Russia and improved European security.
‘The Republicans went nuts,’ one member said.
The intelligence community briefing will inevitably create new tensions between Trump and his spies.
He has publicly voiced his distrust at findings with which he does not agree, telling them in 2019 to ‘go back to school’ and accusing them of underrating the threat from Iran and over-emphasizing that from North Korea during a public briefing to Congress.
Mike Quigley, a Democratic member of the Intel Committee, said he feared that Pierson and others would be put in jeopardy over saying Russia favors Trump.
‘If you don’t agree with the king, you’re gone,’ Quigley told The Daily Beast.
‘That has a chilling effect on people being willing to tell the truth, and that makes us less safe.’
Amid Maguire’s removal, two senior members of his staff both resigned – the ‘principal executive,’ Andrew Hallman, and the general counsel, Jason Klitenic.
It is unclear if both were still in post as Grenell assumed his new role Thursday.
Grenell is one of Trump’s closest loyalists, and will also make history as the first openly gay cabinet secretary.
It puts a hawkish pro-Trump figure in charge of the intelligence community but will not – apparently – be a permanent move.
Grenell used his twitter account to say: ‘The President will announce the Nominee (not me) sometime soon.’
The appointment was instantly divisive.
‘He is probably the most unqualified individual ever appointed to this position,’ said Larry Pfeiffer, a former longtime intelligence agency official who helped establish the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But Grenell has support among the president’s backers on Capitol Hill. ‘Ric has a proven track record of fighting for our country, and now, he will work every day to make sure Americans are safe,’ House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Ca., said on Twitter.
Maguire had until March 12 to remain as acting DNI, a role he took when Dan Coats quit as the last permanent leader of the intelligence community.
Both briefed: Devin Nunes, the Republican ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and its Democratic chairman Adam Schiff were both told about Russia’s interference by the intelligence officials – but Trump incorrectly believed only Schiff was told
Key issue: Grenell used his twitter feed to issue a warning to the UK after it gave the go-ahead to Huawei building part of its 5G mobile phone network in defiance of U.S. demands to lock it out
Trump tweeted that Maguire could have another role in the administration; he had previously been director of the National Counterterrorism Center after a career in the Navy as a SEAL and chief of special operations.
Maguire and the wider intelligence community was thrust to the center of the news agenda by the whistleblower letter which accused Trump of wrongdoing in his relations with Ukraine.
Grenell is eligible to become acting director because he is already on a Senate-confirmed role as ambassador to Germany, having been voted through 56-42, and was sworn in by Mike Pence with his partner Matt Lashey at his side, becoming the highest-ranking gay official in a Republican administration.
Grenell has not worked in the intelligence community before but was also floated as a possible director of national security at the White House, a job which went to Robert O’Brien after the sudden departure of John Bolton.
He has already been outspoken on one intelligence issue, saying there is a need to prevent Huawei having access to 5G cell phone networks in the West.
He used Twitter to issue a direct warning to the UK this week that it faces losing access to U.S. intelligence – which he will now control – after prime minister Boris Johnson allowed Huawei to be part of building the country’s 5G network
Trump had a strained relationship with Coats, who had endorsed the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the objective of promoting Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Grenell has also led U.S. opposition to Nord Stream 2, a pipeline which was intended to increase the flow of natural gas from Russia to Germany.
The U.S. opposes it on strategic grounds, and has used sanctions to try to derail the project.
And the move comes at a time when the Department of Justice has a prosecutor – John Durham – carrying out a criminal investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
The focus of the probe has reported to be on the analysis which led to the conclusion that Russia had interfered in the election in favor of Trump.
It has also apparently focused on the actions of Obama-appointed intelligence officials John Brennan, the CIA director, and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who have both been frequent Trump targets and are outspoken public critics of the president.