The intelligence community rejected a request from House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to provide a briefing to members on Russia’s alleged meddling in last month’s presidential election.
The denial prompted Nunes on Wednesday to cast doubt on recent claims coming out of the CIA, including whether or not there really is an agency assessment that Moscow was aiming to help Donald Trump win the presidency.
“The Committee is deeply concerned that intransigence in sharing intelligence with Congress can enable the manipulation of intelligence for political purposes,” Nunes, who is also a member of Trump’s transition team, said in a statement released from the committee.
“[W]e want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us,” he added.
On Monday, Nunes was more pointed in a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He claimed he was “dismayed” that the committee had not learned that the CIA had revised information that it previously reported to members.
He noted that during an open hearing last month, Clapper said the evidence connecting the government of Russia to WikiLeaks was “not as strong,” and that the intel community didn’t have “good insight into the sequencing of the releases.”
Since that briefing, the CIA has, like a sieve, been leaking claims to the contrary. Various news reports, relying on anonymous sources within the agency, have alleged that Moscow not only managed the hacks on the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign chair John Podesta, but also directed the information be turned over to WikiLeaks. An NBC News report on Wednesday asserted that Vladimir Putin personally oversaw the operation.
The reports point to the existence of a new CIA assessment that neither the public, nor most Members of Congress, including those on committees of jurisdiction, have seen.
Intelligence director Clapper, however, disputed Nunes’ characterizations.
“Senior Administration Officials have regularly provided extensive, detailed classified and unclassified briefings to members and staff from both parties on Capitol Hill since this past summer and have continued to do so after Election Day,” his office said in a statement Wednesday.
It’s clear, however, that Capitol Hill is clamoring for more information on the matter.
Earlier this week, several Democratic senators, including Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.) wrote a letter to Clapper requesting a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on “Russian efforts to manipulate the recent US presidential election.”
NIEs are authoritative reports produced by the intelligence community on specific issues, such as terrorist activities or Iranian nuclear capabilities.
“Given the serious nature of these matters, with unprecedented national security implications, we believe that our intelligence community must prioritize a conclusive, public NIE to lay out the facts of this serious matter for the American people,” the senators urged in their letter.
There is also a push by Democrats, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to establish an independent congressional panel to investigate Russian interference in the election.
Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Thursday morning, Sen. Cardin called for a joint inquiry similar to what was undertaken after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“I think we need to do the same thing in regards to what Russia has done,” he said. “Whether they attack us by a MiG or attacks us by a mouse, it’s an attack.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot down the idea of a special panel to investigate allegations against Russia. He said the charges were “disturbing,” but that he’d leave it to already established congressional committees to conduct any probes on the issue.