Top US Democrats ‘gravely concerned’ about election interference

Democrats in Congress demand immediate briefing from FBI officials on the nature and severity of the threats.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reacts to Russia-Taliban intel
United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have requested an emergency briefing from FBI officials after receiving intelligence about foreign interference in the US presidential election [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

The United States Congress appears to be the target of a foreign disinformation campaign aimed at influencing lawmakers’ activities and the upcoming presidential contest, top Democrats said in a letter released on Monday.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray dated July 13 but only now made public, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees said they were “gravely concerned” that Congress seemed to be in the crosshairs of “a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November”.

The nature of the disinformation campaign was not made clear, although the letter referred to the threat as serious and specific.

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The letter requested a “classified defensive briefing” from FBI officials before the August recess. It was not clear whether any such briefing is planned. The FBI confirmed having received the letter but declined further comment.

One congressional official said the Democrats’ letter was prompted by the accumulation of intelligence. The official declined to discuss in detail any of the specific intelligence reporting or analyses that raised such concerns. A second congressional official said a classified addendum was sent alongside the letter that drew mainly from the US government’s own reporting.

No Republican lawmakers signed the letter.

On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden – just days after announcing that he had started to receive intelligence briefings – also issued a stark warning to any foreign adversaries contemplating interference in the November general election.

In a 700-word statement, first obtained by the Politico news outlet, Biden said that he “will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government”, and that he plans to “direct the US Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with US elections”.

His administration would, he added, “leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators” – including potential sanctions and cyber responses – and will call on the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Department of State “to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies