President Donald Trump is reportedly furious over a briefing before the House Intelligence Committee in which Intel officials warned lawmakers that Russia is actively trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential election to ensure Trump serves a second term as president.
“The message was, it appears they’re favoring one candidate over another, and everybody should be cautious,” a source who attended the Hill meeting confirmed to CBS News.
Sources told CBS News Trump was unaware of the classified House briefing, and was “furious” when he found out from House Republicans. Senior administration officials said that Trump reportedly “blew his stack” and repeatedly used an expletive.
The briefing last week was led by election security official Shelby Pierson and was first reported by The New York Times. According to CNN, Russia’s interference includes hacking, weaponizing social media and attacks on election infrastructure, one of the sources said.
Trump has dismissed the claims as a democratic “hoax” and “misinformation campaign” designed to smear his re-election bid. Following the White House briefing, an irate Trump ousted outgoing acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire for having allowed the information about Russia’s interference to be included in the briefing, a White House official told CNN. Prior to his ousting, Maguire was under consideration to become the permanent director of national intelligence.
The intelligence officials who delivered the briefing said that while Russia does favor Trump, its attempts to influence the upcoming elections are not only for the purpose of re-electing the sitting president, but to raise questions about the overall integrity of the election process.
The assessment of Russia’s meddling reflects the conclusions of multiple agencies, and lawmakers on both sides have asked to see the underlying intelligence. Intelligence officials have long warned that Russia and other countries would attempt to interfere in the upcoming presidential election, following Russia’s meddling in the 2016 campaign that ended with Trump’s surprise victory over Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
Moscow on Friday denied any attempts to influence the election, according to Reuters, insisting such claims were the result of paranoia.
“These are more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the (U.S.) election,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “They have nothing to do with the truth.”
President 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.”