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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Russian Interference Update

Dennis Aftergut at Verdict:
On May 3, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General reported that in mid-2020, Trump administration officials at DHS delayed and made politically influenced changes in an intelligence study alerting the public to Russian interference in America’s 2020 election. DHS had early knowledge that Russia sought to spread disinformation about Joe Biden’s mental acuity.

The new DHS IG report matters for three key reasons: First, it dramatically illustrates how the former President’s intent to misinform the American people permeated his government departments.

Second, the report reaffirms how Trump aligned with Vladimir Putin in attacking the truth.

Third, the May 3 news reminds us of the importance of inspectors general in our system.

According to the new IG report, in mid-2020, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf intervened multiple times in the review process of a white paper on Russia’s ongoing election interference. By regulation and practice, Wolf had “no formal role in reviewing the product.”

Meanwhile, other Trump appointees at DHS sought to “blunt” the focus on Russia by adding—over the staff author’s reservations—distracting claims of interference by China and Iran. The DHS paper’s initial title, “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Electoral Dynamics,” eventually morphed to “Malign Foreign Influence Actors Denigrating Health of US Presidential Candidates.”

Tuesday’s IG report also describes Wolf reassigning a DHS undersecretary in August 2020. According to the report, at a meeting the previous month, the undersecretary—whom we now know to be whistleblower Mark Zaid—had alleged that Wolf told him that “an intelligence product should be ‘held’ because it ‘made the President look bad.’” (Wolf denies that allegation.)