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September 16, 2020 – The recent whistleblower complaint alleging that senior Trump administration officials attempted to “censor or manipulate” intelligence on Russian election interference, immigration statistics, the threat from white supremacists, and the reality of COVID-19 is another unmistakable signal that this administration continues to put Trump’s political interests ahead of our national security. The administration has proven, time and again, that nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of his politicking—not even the analysis of America’s intelligence community.

Of course, the latest revelations, while egregious, are hardly surprising. They fit within a long pattern of intelligence manipulation that dates from the earliest days of the administration.

  • January 2017: When asked if Russia interfered in the election, Trump admitted Russia had hacked the DNC, but then quickly pivoted and minimized Moscow’s actions: “I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”
  • June 2017: Senior White House advisor Stephen Miller secured a record-low refugee cap by manipulating the interagency process to exclude contrary evidence. DHS, not State, led the interagency process, which excluded officials from the National Counterterrorism Center and FBI. When a Department of Health and Human Services study on the cost of refugee resettlement showed refugees on balance contributed revenue to the U.S. government, the administration suppressed the study and demanded the agency recalculate the figures. 
  • July 2017: The intelligence community, State Department, and international weapons inspectors repeatedly confirmed that Iran was in compliance with the Iran deal, but administration officials consistently referred to Iran’s failure to comply with the “spirit of the deal,” effectively discarding the assessments of professionals.
  • September 2017: In a meeting on refugee admissions, Justice Department officials rejected a report from the National Counterterrorism Center that concluded that refugees to the U.S. do not pose a major security threat – and halted a presentation on the report before it even began. An official reportedly said Sessions would not be guided by the report since he “doesn’t agree with the conclusions.”
  • November 2017: At Trump’s request, then-CIA director Pompeo met with William Binney, a chief propagator of the conspiracy theory that the DNC hack was an inside job, not the work of Russian intelligence. Pompeo even went so far as to suggest Binney share his theory with additional officials at the NSA and FBI.
  • January 2018: A DHS-DOJ report cherry-picked data on terror threats to the United States, ignoring instances of domestic terrorism to emphasize the risk of foreign-born individuals in order to justify its Muslim Ban.
  • May 2018: Trump disclosed previously unreported details about a classified military strike in Syria to wealthy donors in New York.
  • June 2018: Trump falsely tweeted that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea” following his first summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. We later learned that intelligence officials estimated that North Korea produced enough uranium and plutonium to fuel a half-dozen new nuclear warheads between Trump and Kim’s first and second summits. 
  • July 2018: At a press conference in Helsinki, Trump publicly sided with Putin over his own intelligence community by publicly rejecting the high-confidence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
  • August 2018: The Trump administration stripped former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance in retaliation for speaking out against the administration and threatened to do the same for additional officials. 
  • September 2018: Throughout the course of the Special Counsel’s Russia probe, Trump sought—and in September 2018 approved—the release of highly classified information in an effort to discredit the FBI investigation into his campaign and the Department of Justice more broadly. 
  • November 2018: Trump sided with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) over U.S. intelligence, which assessed that MbS had ordered the killing of Jamaal Khashoggi. He downplayeddismissed, and attempted to conceal the intelligence that incriminated the Saudis, whom he repeatedly claimed paid him millions of dollars over the years. 
  • January 2019: Trump told intelligence chiefs over Twitter to “go back to school” after they suggested during an open Congressional hearing that Trump’s approaches to Iran, North Korea, and other challenges were not based on sound intelligence. 
  • April 2019: A whistleblower revealed that senior officials overruled career public servants and granted high-level security clearances to as many as 25 individuals initially deemed unfit for such access. 
  • June 2019: Trump and his team chose not to disclose to Democrats in Congress the critical intelligence that Saudi Arabia had significantly expanded its ballistic missile program through purchases from China. 
  • June 2019: Following Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal, administration officials presented intelligence to Congress asserting dubious ties between Iran and al-Qaeda, seemingly in an attempt to build a legal justification for the use of military force against Iran. 
  • June 2019: Trump officials stifled and then blocked a State Department intelligence official from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on the “possibly catastrophic” impacts of climate change, a move so egregious that the State Department official resigned
  • July 2019: Trump fired Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in part for defending the analytic conclusions of the intelligence community, including those regarding Russia’s attacks on our democracy.
  • September 2019: A Senior Department of Homeland Security official was told to stop providing Russian intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, one reason being that “it made the President look bad.”
  • September 2019: Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire attempted to prevent the DNI Inspector General from sending the whistleblower report, which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment, to Congress. 
  • September 2019: The ODNI culled a key finding of a document analyzing Russian interference in the 2020 election that concluded Russia’s motivation was re-electing Donald Trump.
  • January 2020: In the middle of the impeachment trial, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff revealed that the intelligence community was “withholding information” at the direction of the President. 
  • February 2020: Trump fired Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire after he permitted intelligence confirming Russia’s ongoing efforts to boost Trump’s electoral prospects to be shared with Congress. He then replaced Maguire with Richard Grenell, a political loyalist with no intelligence experience best known as a Twitter troll. 
  • February 2020: President Trump claimed a senior CDC official’s public warning was scaring the stock markets, and threatened to fire her. The same day, he announced COVID-19 cases in the U.S. should be “close to zero” in a couple of days. 
  • February 2020: Trump is briefed that COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu, is transmitted through air, and has asymptomatic carriers, but disregarded the intelligence, and instead implied publicly that COVID was no worse than the flu, and that the virus was “very much under control.”
  • April 2020: Senior Trump administration officials, including Secretary Pompeo and Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger, pressured intelligence agencies to hunt for evidence supporting their unsubstantiated theory linking government labs in Wuhan to the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • May 2020: According to a whistleblower report, senior DHS officials instructed Brian Murphy to provide intelligence reports in line with Trump’s messaging, including orders “to cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the United States, and instead start reporting on interference activities by China and Iran.”
  • July 2020: Murphy was pressured by senior officials to modify intelligence assessments on domestic protests to ensure they supported Trump’s public comments on antifa and ‘anarchist’ groups. 
  • July 2020: Senior DHS officials instructed Murphy to use watered-down language pertaining to white supremacists in reports on protests, changing “white supremacists” to “domestic violent extremists.”
  • August 2020: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence told Congress it would cease delivering in-person briefings on foreign election interference and election security, a move that prevents Congress from questioning the reports.
  • September 2020: DHS official Brian Murphy revealed that he was asked to produce intelligence assessments that supported the assertion that large numbers of terrorists were seeking to enter the U.S. through the southwest border — and that DHS officials sought to fire him for refusing to produce intelligence to substantiate that claim.
  • September 2020: News accounts reveal that Health and Human Services political appointees received access to review and edit the CDC’s scientific reports on COVID-19, watering down language when it undermined Trump’s message.

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