U.S. Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to get President Trump reelected, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Five people familiar with the matter told the Times that the disclosure angered Trump, who complained that Democrats might use the intelligence information against him.
Trump reportedly used the Feb. 13 classified briefing by top election security officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to the House Intelligence Committee to berate now-former Acting DNI Joseph Maguire, accusing him of disloyalty for allowing the briefing.
Trump reportedly worried that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (Calif.), one of the Democrats who led the impeachment investigation against him, was present during the briefing.
According to the Times:
During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that Mr. Trump has been tough on Russia and strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying that had the official who delivered the conclusion spoken less pointedly or left it out, they would have avoided angering the Republicans.
That intelligence official, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire who has a reputation of delivering intelligence in somewhat blunt terms. The president announced on Wednesday that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and long an aggressively vocal Trump supporter.
Though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing may have played a role in the removal of Mr. Maguire, who had told people in recent days that he believed he would remain in the job, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a personal kinship with Mr. Maguire.
A House intelligence committee official called the Feb. 13 briefing an important update about “the integrity of our upcoming elections.”
Maguire is now set to step down as acting DNI and will be replaced by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted Thursday that “now we know why” Republicans in the Senate continue blocking election security bills.
“They’d rather let Putin win then stand up to President Trump,” he tweeted.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Thursday said Trump “has been in denial about foreign election interference for three years because his ego cannot accept that Russia interfered on his behalf.”
“By firing Acting DNI Maguire because his staff provided the candid conclusions of the Intelligence Community to Congress regarding Russian meddling in the 2020 Presidential election, the President is not only refusing to defend against foreign interference, he’s inviting it,” Thompson said in a statement.