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Schiff, Carson to DHS: Did Secretary Nielsen Read the Intelligence Community Assessment, or Not?

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Washington, May 23, 2018 | comments

Washington, DC -- Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and André Carson (D-IN), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security after Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stated “I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win,” after she was asked about a key judgment from the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on Russia’s influence campaign during the last election.

Schiff and Carson, in the letter to Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis David Glawe, push the Department to answer questions related to whether Secretary Nielsen was indeed briefed on the contents of the ICA, during her time as Secretary, as chief of staff to then-Secretary John Kelly, or at the White House. Given Secretary Nielsen’s comments yesterday, Schiff and Carson also request information on whether any DHS assessment about the 2016 election has relied on conclusions other than those found in the ICA.

“The Department of Homeland Security plays a central role in providing cybersecurity and other related assistance to state election officials as they prepare for the 2018 midterms,” Schiff and Carson wrote in the letter. “It is critical for the public to know with confidence that the Department is relying on the objective intelligence work product and analysis, rather than any political sentiment, as it continues offering support for election security. It is therefore deeply troubling that Secretary Nielsen would claim not to have ‘seen’ such a central judgment of the ICA – one that has been reaffirmed repeatedly since January 2017, including most recently by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.”

The full letter can be found below:

The Honorable David J. Glawe

Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Under Secretary Glawe: 

According to Politico, following yesterday morning’s election security briefing to House Members, Secretary Nielsen was asked about the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA), specifically its key judgment that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government sought to help then-candidate Donald Trump’s chances of winning the 2016 election. In response, the Secretary reportedly said, “I do not believe that I’ve seen that conclusion that the specific intent was to help President Trump win…I’m not aware of that.”

The Department of Homeland Security plays a central role in providing cybersecurity and other related assistance to state election officials as they prepare for the 2018 midterms. It is critical for the public to know with confidence that the Department is relying on the objective intelligence work product and analysis, rather than any political sentiment, as it continues offering support for election security.

It is therefore deeply troubling that Secretary Nielsen would claim not to have “seen” such a central judgment of the ICA – one that has been reaffirmed repeatedly since January 2017, including most recently by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In order to clarify the facts, and given your role as the Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, we respectfully ask that you answer following questions:

1)    To the best of your knowledge, is it correct that, at the time she was asked about the ICA by reporters, Secretary Nielsen had not in fact “seen” the ICA’s judgment that the Russian government aspired to help then-candidate Trump’s election chances?

2)    Was Secretary Nielsen briefed, by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis or other IC elements, on the contents of the 2017 ICA, including all key judgments, upon her confirmation as Secretary of Homeland Security on December 5, 2017? And if not, why not?

3)    Was then-Secretary John Kelly briefed by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis or other IC elements on the contents of the 2017 ICA, including all key judgments, upon his confirmation as Secretary of Homeland Security on January 20, 2017? And if not, why not?

4)    Was Secretary Nielsen, in her capacity as chief of staff to then-Secretary Kelly, briefed by the Office of Intelligence and Analysis or other IC elements on the contents of the 2017 ICA, including all key judgments, when she joined the Department in January 2017? And if not, why not?

5)    Are you aware of any other circumstance in which Secretary Nielsen, during service as Secretary or in prior government service, was briefed on the ICA judgments with respect to the Kremlin’s preference for and/or effort to help candidate Trump?

6)    Has any DHS assessment about the 2016 election been provided to the White House or the President that relies on conclusions other than those found in the ICA? And if so, why?

We would appreciate your response to these questions in writing by no later than the close of business on May 25, 2018. Should you have any questions, please contact the Committee at (202) 225-7590.

Sincerely,

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

André Carson

Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats

 

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