O’Brien says “no intelligence behind” claims of Russia interfering in 2020

Last week, intelligence officials warned lawmakers in a briefing before the House Intelligence Committee that the Russians are continuing their efforts to interfere in the 2020 election, and that one prong is aimed at helping re-elect President Trump. But the president’s top national security official said there’s “no intelligence behind” such claims. 

Speaking to “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien disputed the reports of what was presented during a House Intelligence Committee briefing that he said was “leaked” to members of the press. O’Brien said he had “not seen the finding” himself. 

“From what I understand about the report….I get this second hand, but from Republican congressmen that were in the committee, there was no intelligence behind it,” O’Brien said. “I haven’t seen any intelligence to support the reports that were leaked out of the House. But it’s just hard to comment on that because, again, I wasn’t there. And these are leaks that were coming from a House Intel Committee hearing. I haven’t seen any intelligence that would- would back up what I’m reading in the papers.” 

Following the congressional briefing, intelligence officials then briefed the White House on election security and offered the same assessment — that Russia is trying to help Mr. Trump win re-election in 2020 — a senior administration official told CBS.

Moscow has since denied that it’s trying to interfere in the election and help Mr. Trump, and said the reports are the result of paranoia, according to the Reuters news service. 

Mr. Trump was also dismissive, tweeting Friday, “Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa.”

Sources tell CBS News that Mr. Trump was unaware of the classified House briefing and was furious when he found out about it from House Republicans. 

Intelligence officials have been suggesting publicly and privately that Russia and other adversaries have been refining their disinformation methods, working to spread and amplify their messages through “authentic” U.S. sources in the 2020 election, rather than creating personas that can be flagged by social media companies as fake identities, which was a predominate tactic of the Russian disinformation campaign in 2016. 

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