Top intelligence office informs congressional committees it’ll no longer brief on election security

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WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 27: The flag flies at half-staff in honor of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) outside the U.S. Capitol where he will lie in state July 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Called ‘the conscience of the U.S. Congress,’ Lewis was a civil rights pioneer, contemporary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped to organize and address the historic March on Washington in August 1963. Lewis served Georgia’s fifth congressional district from 1987 until his death on July 17. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has informed the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence that it’ll no longer be briefing on election security issues, a senior administration official told CNN. It’ll provide written updates, the official said.

The official added that other agencies supporting election security, including the Department of Justice, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, intend to continue briefing Congress.

CNN is reaching out to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and committee officials for comment.

The abrupt announcement is a change of course that runs counter to the pledge of transparency and regular briefings on election threats by the intelligence community.

Last month, the top intelligence official for election security, Bill Evanina, reiterated a commitment to providing “robust intelligence-based briefings on election security” to key stakeholders that include Congress, along with the political parties and presidential campaigns.

Earlier this month, Evanina released an unprecedented statement saying China “prefers” an outcome where President Donald Trump is not reelected in November and Russia is working to “denigrate” former Vice President Joe Biden’s White House bid.

“We assess that China prefers that President Trump — whom Beijing sees as unpredictable — does not win reelection,” he wrote. “China has been expanding its influence efforts ahead of November 2020 to shape the policy environment in the United States, pressure political figures it views as opposed to China’s interests, and deflect and counter criticism of China.”

“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’ This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia,” Evanina added.

Evanina also stated that Iran is seeking to “undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said Evanina’s statement improved on the previous warning about foreign election interference he issued in July, but “still treats three actors of differing intent and capability as equal threats to our democratic elections.”

In a joint statement issued at the time, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. Marco Rubio and Mark Warner, thanked Evanina for providing the additional information about the threats and encouraged the intelligence community to “continue to make this information available.”

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