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Trump appointee twice delayed report on Russian election interference, federal watchdog report says

A senior Trump politician delayed a report on Russian election interference in the 2020 election in a way that created the perception that intelligence was politicized, according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security watchdog .

The DHS Inspector General’s report also found that employees of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis made changes to the analysis of foreign election interference “that appear to be based in part on considerations policies, which could impact I&A’s compliance with Intelligence Community policy”.

The report also revealed that the appointee, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, who is not named, “has participated in the review process on multiple occasions despite having no formal role in the review of the product, which delayed its broadcast on at least one occasion”.

Wolf did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The report says he denied acting for political reasons.

It was an intelligence analysis indicating that “Russian actors of malign influence” were spreading unsubstantiated claims about the health of then-candidate Joe Biden in order to reduce voter confidence in him. The product said Russia used both open and covert channels and linked the efforts to similar operations during the 2016 presidential election.

Publication of the newspaper was twice delayed on Wolf’s orders, the inspector general’s report said. Other officials added a so-called tone box describing efforts by Chinese and Iranian influencers to promote unsubstantiated narratives questioning the sanity of then-President Donald Trump.

“The tone box is the only part of the product where Iran and China, as well as President Trump, are discussed,” the inspector general’s report said.

The report was sparked by a whistleblower complaint, covered at the time by NBC News. The written complaint by Brian Murphy, who was a top DHS intelligence analyst, accused senior DHS officials of blocking analysis of Russian election interference, watering down intelligence reports on corruption and violence fueling a flow of refugees from Central America, and to “change[ing] ratings to ensure they match President Trump’s public comments about ANTIFA and “anarchist” groups.

The inspector general’s report says investigators were unable to conclude that Wolf or other officials acted for political reasons. Instead, he concludes that their actions have created the perception of politicization.

“DHS did not follow its standard process and requirements when editing and releasing an I&A intelligence product regarding Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The Acting Secretary interrupted the release of the product when he requested that the product be “held” at the July 8 meeting,” the report said.

“This has resulted in a delay in the release of an intelligence product intended to inform stakeholders of foreign influence efforts related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

The inspector general’s report noted that a mediator within the DHS intelligence office also questioned whether the intelligence report had been politicized.

“Given the structure, fuzziness and use of a ‘balancing’ tone box, there are questions about objectivity and lack of political consideration,” the ombudsman concluded, according to the report.


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