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Move to Reduce In-Person Briefings on Elections Roils Lawmakers

WASHINGTON — Members of the Republican and Democratic parties are criticizing a decision by the director of National Intelligence to scale back in-person briefings on election security.


What You Need To Know

  • Intelligence director said only written briefings will take place
  • Florida’s Murphy: Decision “puts our demcracy at risk”
  • Rubio: Senate Intelligence committee will still receive briefings
  • Intelligence community warns that Russia, China, and iran are trying to interfere

Lawmakers said they were caught off guard with this news, especially after an in-person briefing had already been set for later this month. Now, those briefings will take place in writing only.

Critics say the change leaves members of Congress largely in the dark, two months ahead of the general election. 

“For the administration to decide not to provide these briefings any longer, puts our democracy at risk,” U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a former intelligence official at the Pentagon, said.

Director of National Intelligence John Radcliffe said he made the switch after details from a number of in-person briefings in August were leaked to the press.

“This relationship between Congress and the intelligence community is at a crisis,” according to Sen. Marco Rubio, who is serving as the acting intelligence committee chairman. 

While Rubio acknowledges how detrimental leaks can be, he is not on board with the rollback.

“The answer to that frustration can’t be, however, that we are just not going to talk to Congress anymore; that’s not what the law says,” the Florida Republican said in an interview with Spectrum News.

When asked whether a written briefing could be leaked more easily, Rubio did not seem to be largely concerned. 

“Yeah, I mean ultimately, if you’re going to leak, you’re going to leak. It’s a federal crime,” he said. 

Rubio said Radcliffe committed to continue providing in-person briefings to the Senate Intelligence panel, but that does not extend to the intelligence committee in the House, which is led by Democrats. 

 “There’s still a responsibility to provide lawmakers with in-person briefings where we can ask questions and better understand the nuances of intelligence,” said Murphy, who represents Florida’s 7th district.

The news was a major blow for Murphy, who has long advocated for more information about election security from the federal government. It all began after she learned of breaches by Russian hackers inside several county computer networks in Florida from a single line tucked into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

“I am absolutely concerned about making sure that Congress has the information that we need when it comes to foreign actors trying to interfere in our elections,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News.

A few weeks ago, the intelligence community warned that China, Russia, and Iran are all trying to interfere in the election. House Democrats are now weighing their options, including the potential to subpoena top intelligence officials to testify before Congress. 

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