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Former acting DHS secretary twice delayed an intelligence report to block details of Russian interference in the 2020 election ‘because it made Trump look bad’, watchdog finds

  • Chad Wolf was appointed by Trump as acting Homeland Security secretary
  • A 2020 whistleblower claimed DHS officials edited reports in favor of Trump
  • A new probe found Wolf twice delayed a report about Russian interference
  • He oversaw edits which tried to make the report ‘balanced’, investigators found 
  • Wolf said the report vindicates him and it did not find evidence he ‘directed anyone to change the substance of the report’

A top appointee of Donald Trump twice delayed an intelligence report on Russian interference into the 2020 election because of fears it would ‘hurt’ the president, a watchdog has found.

Chad Wolf, the former acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, oversaw edits and intervened to push back the release of the report after learning it showed Russia was pushing a disinformation campaign about Joe Biden‘s mental state.

A new probe from the inspector general found that employees made changes to the analysis that ‘appear to be based in part on political considerations, potentially impacting I&A’s compliance with Intelligence Community policy’.

They added that Wolf, referred to only by his role, ‘participated in the review process multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product, resulting in the delay of its dissemination on at least one occasion’.

‘We determined that the Acting Secretary’s involvement led to the rare occurrence of I&A ceasing dissemination of a product after it had already been approved by the mission manager and circulated via advanced notification,’ they said.

Chad Wolf (pictured testifying in 2020) delayed an intelligence report on Russian interference into the 2020 election because of fears it would 'hurt' the president, a watchdog has found

Chad Wolf (pictured testifying in 2020) delayed an intelligence report on Russian interference into the 2020 election because of fears it would ‘hurt’ the president, a watchdog has found

The official intervened to push back the release of the bombshell report after learning it found evidence that Russia was pushing a disinformation campaign

The official intervened to push back the release of the bombshell report after learning it found evidence that Russia was pushing a disinformation campaign

The intelligence report, titled, Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Electoral Dynamics, had been ordered after an employee had ‘noticed an uptick in Russian state media efforts to question candidate Joseph Biden’s mental health’.

The initial analysis had stated that ‘Russian malign influence actors’ were spreading unproven claims about the health of Trump’s rival Biden in a bid to swing the election.

It claimed Russia was using overt and covert channels similar to their attempt to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

But on the order of Wolf, the report was delayed twice, before its scheduled publication on July 9 and mid-August. It was eventually published in September with the edits.

He even said in a July 8 meeting that the intelligence briefing should be ‘held’ because it ‘made the president look bad’, the report said.

It quoted one individual who said: ‘The Acting Secretary asked the product be held because it made President Trump look bad and hurt President Trump’s campaign — the concept that Russia was denigrating candidate Biden would be used against President Trump.’

According to notes of the meeting obtained by the investigation, one top official wrote at the time: ‘AS1, will hurt POTUS, kill it per his authorities.’

US intelligence found Russia was pushing a disinformation campaign about Joe Biden's mental state

US intelligence found Russia was pushing a disinformation campaign about Joe Biden’s mental state

His officials then intervened and added a ‘tone box’ which balanced the report by claiming Chinese and Iranian influence actors were pushing similarly false claims about Trump’s mental health.

The head of the Cyber Mission Center said the tone box was a ‘blunting feature’ to ‘balance’ the report.

This would appear to violate requirements that intelligence products should be objective and apolitical.

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

Wolf told investigators his concerns about the report were not political but due to its quality.

He said: ‘The product I saw in July was written at the Fifth-Grade level. I expect more out of our component leaders. There were sentences that did not make sense. There was no cohesive argument. It lacked citations and context.’

In a statement to NBC News today, he said the report ‘supports my longstanding position on this matter’.

He said the investigation ‘did not find any credible evidence that I directed anyone to change the substance of the report because it ‘made President Trump look bad’.’ 

The new report was sparked by a 2020 whistleblower who accused Homeland Security officials of lying to Congress and manipulating intelligence reports to be in line with Trump’s policies and agenda.

Brian Murphy, a top DHS intelligence analyst, said he was pressured by agency leaders to suppress details in his reports, including intelligence on Russian interference in the election and the threat posed by white supremacists.

Brian Murphy said that as a senior Homeland Security official he was ordered to suppress intelligence which would not 'reflect' on Donald Trump

Brian Murphy said that as a senior Homeland Security official he was ordered to suppress intelligence which would not ‘reflect’ on Donald Trump 

He said in his 2020 complaint that Wolf told him to stop providing intelligence assessments on Russia’s interference, and he was demoted for refusing to do so.

Murphy also said in the complaint that Wolf told him to begin reporting on Chinese and Iranian interference, and that the instructions to do so came from White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

The former FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran had served as principal deputy under secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. 

The inspector general’s report into the department backed up many of Murphy’s complaints.

They found: ‘DHS did not follow its standard process and requirements when editing and disseminating an I&A intelligence product regarding Russian interference with the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. 

‘The Acting Secretary disrupted dissemination of the product when he asked for the product to be ‘held’ during the July 8 meeting.

‘This resulted in a delay in the dissemination of an intelligence product intended to inform stakeholders about foreign influence efforts relating to the 2020 US Presidential election.’

The report also pointed out that an ombudsman within the DHS questioned the politicization of the intelligence report about Russian interference.

Wolf ended up resigning as acting DHS secretary in January 2021 just 10 days before Biden’s inauguration.

A court had ruled he was not legally serving in the role because it didn’t follow the department’s order of succession. 

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Source: Daily Mail

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