NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Sen. Mark Warner about the announcement that the Director of National Intelligence will scale back election security briefings for Congress.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: We’re going to begin today with news that’s provoked outrage among congressional Democrats, who say it could affect Congress’s ability to monitor election security threats going forward. Last night, the office of the Director of National Intelligence announced that Congress will no longer receive in-person intelligence briefings on election security. Instead, lawmakers will be informed of threats in writing.
This comes just a few weeks after the head of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said that Russia, China and Iran were working to influence the 2020 election. To understand the impact of this change, we’ve called Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. He is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he’s with us now by phone.
Senator, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
MARK WARNER: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So in-person briefings have been canceled, but you’ll still be informed of threats in writing. Tell us more about why you say that’s not sufficient. I mean, I can imagine that you won’t be able to ask questions, for one thing.
WARNER: The whole purpose of a briefing is the exchange of information. This is an attempt to limit congressional oversight. This is an attempt to potentially not share all appropriate information with Congress. And at the end of the day, the listeners should understand this is about Americans’ right to know who’s messing with our elections.
If there’s one thing I think we would all agree on, it’s that the Obama administration four years ago should have been more forthcoming before the 2016 election about Russian interference. We know, as the Trump administration has already acknowledged, Russia is back. And they’re back trying again this time to denigrate Vice President Biden. Americans need to know when foreign governments and their agents are trying to affect our elections.
And without getting that full information, both to Congress and to the public at large, I think the administration is doing both wrong and a great disservice. And, again, I just can’t imagine what is driving this other than that, again, it appears, this president’s complete unwillingness to ever call out Russia on any of their malevolent actions – you know, whether it’s the recent poisoning of the opposition leader or the protests in Belarus. We’ve seen this pattern time and again and again.