A group of key House and Senate Democrats led by Senate Rules Committee ranking member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Monday demanded that the intelligence community reverse a decision to halt congressional briefings on election security.
The concerns were raised days after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe notified Congress that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) would no longer participate in classified election security briefings and would instead submit written reports.
In a letter to Ratcliffe, the Democratic members, who also included House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), demanded the election security briefings “immediately resume.”
They pointed to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in making their case. The bill established the ODNI and requires that the ODNI to keep policymakers “fully and completely informed” on intelligence issues.
“We also remind you that the ODNI does not own the intelligence it collects on behalf of the American people, it is a custodian of the information,” the members wrote. “In addition to the power to establish and fund the ODNI, Congress has the power to compel information from it.”
The Democrats cited a recent assessment from a senior ODNI official in calling for the briefings to resume, with the official warning earlier this month that Russian actors were attempting to interfere in the 2020 elections to favor President Trump and that Iranian and Chinese actors were interfering to favor former Vice President Biden.
“Information about these serious threats to our elections must be provided to those elected to represent the American people,” the Democrats wrote.
Ratcliffe defended the decision to end the in-person briefings during an appearance on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” this week, saying he made the decision following “leaks” of information from the last congressional election security briefing.
“I reiterated to Congress, look, I'm going to keep you fully and currently informed, as required by the law,” Ratcliffe said. “But I also said, we're not going to do a repeat of what happened a month ago, when I did more than what was required, at the request of Congress, to brief not just the Oversight committees but every member of Congress.”
Ratcliffe criticized public comments by top congressional Democrats in July who accused the ODNI of equating Russian election interference efforts with Chinese and Iranian interference efforts.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement Saturday that Ratcliffe had assured him the Senate Intelligence Committee would “continue receiving briefings on all oversight topics, including election security.”
Klobuchar and other Democrats noted in the letter to Ratcliffe on Monday that foreign threats to elections superseded partisan fights.
“As our nation faces grave threats to our election system from determined adversaries, we must work together to protect our democracy,” the Democratic members wrote. “We are thankful to the brave men and women of the Intelligence Community who do their work without fear or favor to protect our country. We look forward to seeing them in the near future for election security briefings.”