President Donald Trump has dismissed reported warnings by US intelligence that Russia is meddling in this year’s elections as a “hoax” planted by his Democratic rivals.
“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,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hoax number 7!”
Democratic lawmakers have voiced renewed concern about Trump after receiving a classified briefing by Joseph Maguire, the outgoing director of national intelligence, where he reportedly warned that Russia was again intervening in hopes of boosting Trump’s election chances.
The New York Times reported that Trump berated Maguire, who was removed this week, for allowing the briefing to take place.
Trump then announced this week that Richard Grenell, a loyalist, would be the acting intelligence chief, even as he continues serving as US ambassador to Germany.
His appointment drew sharp rebukes from Democrats and other critics who said Grenell lacked intelligence experience.
Trump tweeted yesterday that four candidates were being considered for the permanent post of intelligence head and that a decision would come in the next few weeks.
The president has previously voiced anger at the US intelligence community’s publicly released assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, including through manipulation of social media, to back the populist billionaire over rival Hillary Clinton.
Yesterday the Kremlin also denied interfering in the 2020 US presidential campaign to boost Trump’s re-election chances.
US intelligence agencies concluded that the Kremlin used disinformation operations, cyber-attacks and other methods in its 2016 operation in an effort to boost Trump, an allegation that Russia denies.
The Kremlin said the latest allegations were false.
“These are more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the (US) election,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “They have nothing to do with the truth.”
Russia’s alleged interference sparked a two-year-long US investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller found no conclusive evidence of co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
He also pointed at 10 instances in which Trump may have attempted to obstruct his investigation, as Democrats alleged, but left any finding of obstruction to Congress.
Trump is seeking a second term in office.
Last July, he called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate one of his potential Democratic rivals, former vice-president Joe Biden, sparking his impeachment in the Democratic-controlled House.
Trump, who was later acquitted by the Republican-led US Senate, has also publicly called on China to probe Biden.
“This is a crisis,” former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John Brennan told MSNBC in an interview yesterday, citing concerns that Trump was seeking to “squelch” critical intelligence.
Schiff, in a Thursday tweet, said if the reports are true, Trump “is again jeopardising our efforts to stop foreign meddling. Exactly as we warned he would do”.
“Trump is not only trying to rewrite history of Russia’s intervention in 2016, he is now using the power of the presidency to conceal their 2020 scheme to re-elect him. Dangerous!” former deputy US attorney-general Sally Yates tweeted.
Democrats seeking to challenge Trump also raised concerns.
Biden, in a CNN town hall event on Thursday, said he was “not surprised” at the reported Russian meddling and that he had no confidence in Grenell.
“This is a national security threat,” Senator Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC on Thursday and criticised Senate Republicans for not acting to secure an election that is less than nine months away.
Trump’s last full-time director of national intelligence, former Republican Senator Dan Coats, resigned last year after his differences with the president over Russia’s role in the 2016 election became public.
Trump’s fellow Republicans at last week’s briefing questioned the information, according to the person familiar with the discussion, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
Republican members of the panel did not respond to a request for comment, but Republican Representative Doug Collins, in a television interview yesterday, echoed Trump’s allegations of politicisation at US intelligence agencies.
“Something needs to be done to clean up these agencies,” he told Fox Business Network.
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