The Russians are coming: Lawmakers learn that the Kremlin is tampering with 2020 primaries and election

February 24, 2020

We knew it all along: Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia has mounted a U.S. campaign to get President Donald Trump re-elected. Now, the president is angry and alarmed—not by the Kremlin’s meddling—but by the very real possibility that Democrats may use the information against him, The New York Times reports.

The day after the February 13 briefing to Congress, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of National Intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said.

According to the Times, Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam Schiff (D- California), who recently served as the impeachment manager in the Senate, was at the briefing.

During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, the president’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he had been “tough on Russia” and that he had strengthened European security.

Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying the conclusions could have been delivered in a less pointed manner or left out entirely, to avoid angering Republicans. The intelligence official who delivered the briefing, Shelby Pierson, served as an aide to Maguire and has a reputation for speaking bluntly.

Although intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, the Times said that last week’s briefing included what appeared to be new information– that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election.

On Wednesday, the president announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and an aggressively vocal Trump supporter. And while some current and former officials speculated that the briefing might have played a role in that move, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its election security office declined to comment to the Times. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

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