US intelligence stops in-person reports to Congress on election security

Thomas Veil

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Aug 13, 2020
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Outcry as US intelligence stops in-person reports to Congress on election security
Decision to provide only updates in writing means oversight panels will not quiz intelligence officials

The United States’ top intelligence office has told lawmakers it will largely stop holding in-person briefings on election security, signaling that it does not trust lawmakers to keep the information secret.
Uh, what?
Donald Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, notified the House and Senate intelligence panels on Friday that it would send written reports instead, giving lawmakers less opportunity to press for details as the 3 November election approaches.
Ratcliffe. Nothing suspicious there.
An official in Ratcliffe’s office, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Saturday the office was “concerned about unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information following recent briefings”....
Uh-huh.
Moving from face-to-face hearings to on-paper reports, the administration was effectively ducking questioning by Congress, Schiff said. “When you hide behind documents and not have to answer questions about it you can conceal the truth.”
Schiff implied that the intelligence committee might use its powers of subpoena to force intelligence officials to appear before it...
Yeah, good luck with that.
Ratcliffe’s office had offered to hold in-person briefings for the House and Senate oversight panels next month, even after concerns surfaced about leaks from previous meetings, a House committee official said. It later rescinded the offer.
But there were expressions of unease from the Republican side. Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff to Kirstjen Nielsen when she was homeland security secretary, and now adviser to an anti-Trump campaign group Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (Repair), told CNN on Sunday morning: “I know John Ratcliffe and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt...but I unequivocally disagree with the decision. In-person briefings are vital.”
Ratcliffe obviously wants to personally review and approve every word that goes out to Congress, rather than risk one of his officers sitting down before a committee and telling them everything that's going on.

Along with his refusal to obey subpoenas, this is another way for Trump to tell the people's representatives only what he wants them to know. Just one more sign that we're turning into a fascist state.
 
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lizkat

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At best all that is going to do is cause more whistleblowers to step up, when some critical intel about election security threat is acquired that's never fed to Congress, and the whistleblower realizes from the lack of outcry or action that it's been suppressed by the administration.

Leaving aside matters of meeting responsibility to the country, this is the kind of stupidity that Trump's sycophantic administration perpetrates upon itself as well as upon us.

We already know, and with bipartisan confirmation from earlier this summer, that Russian and other foreign nations are trying to meddle in our elections. And yet the administration's concern is that such info might "leak" to the American people and so to social media managers and the state boards of election? We should work in the dark? Hide heads in the sand?

Insanity on the part of Trump and his advisers. Or, treason.
 

Thomas Veil

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Yes, they can subpoena.

IIRC, the House also has the authority to have the Sergeant-at-Arms actually arrest someone for ignoring the subpoena. If that order (to not appear before Congress) comes from Ratcliffe, then yes, they could arrest him.

Is it practical? In theory, I'd love to see that happen...have Congress put their foot down and say you are not above the law. In practice, I have no idea if the Sergeant-at-Arms would end up facing down a Secret Service detail or what.
 

lizkat

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Pretty scary stuff and a clear violation of Congressional authority.

What happens next? Does Congress subpoena for in-person briefings? I have no idea procedurally what can be done.
Me either. There sure are a lot of things I bet even longstanding members of Congress and Senate historians never figured they had to get themselves clued in on... because this crew in the White House doesn't put the Constitution first, it's an afterthought at best, and when challenged on that their first response is to tell some more lies and try to find a workaround... or a packed court to take it their way.

This gig makes it unmistakably clear Trump banks on a partisan divide in Congress and the country to keep on letting him do whatever he wants (or is somehow beholden to someone who's pulling his chain). Seems to me everyone should want the administration to follow the rule of law, but that is not what we saw during the trial of Trump's impeachment by the Senate.

Anyway since then we have had a government that we only theoretically retain the right to rein in or consent to going ahead with its impulsive, hyperpartisan and vindictive decisions. We need to turn Trump and this slacking bunch of not-really-Republican Trump sycophants out of office with our votes in November.

Worry about whether we like Democratic Party platform ideas later on. First order of business in any new administration will require bipartisan Congressional efforts anyway, mostly to ensure there's a floor under our economy after the hits from unfunded tax cuts followed by the need for the stimulus programs due to covid-19.... but none of that work can get done without better leadership from the WH in a time of polarized views on what is government's role in our lives. So the tactic of taking "first things first" boils down to getting out the vote.

The problem is how to ensure the vote turnout is not impeded or distorted by Trump making us blind to foreign meddling with our electoral process. Then there are the logistical problems of dealing with impact of covid-19 on vote-casting and vote-counting. Between questions about the postal system and concerns about vote suppression, it all adds up to a need for anyone who treasures democracy itself to step up and not only vote but do more: sign up to be a poll watcher, encourage voter registration and requests for mail-in ballots or early voting in person, offer rides to the polls or to the Board of Elections to deliver mail-in ballots in person. And pressure Congress to do its job. Oversight is not supposed to be a rubber stamp to whatever comes to the mind of a scofflaw at the top of the exective branch of US government.