The Trump administration politicized the intelligence around foreign election interference in 2020, resulting in significant errors in its reports last year to Congress and the public, a report by the intelligence community ombudsman concluded.
Barry A. Zulauf, the analytic ombudsman in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, found there was “a loss of objectivity” and politicization of intelligence in the election threat reporting last year.
“Analysis on foreign election interference was delayed, distorted or obstructed out of concern over policymaker reactions or for political reasons,” said the report, which was submitted to Congress on Thursday.
The formal validation dovetails with widespread perceptions about the Trump administration’s handling of intelligence and underscores the challenge awaiting the Biden administration as it prepares to take over the nation’s spy agencies. The report will be sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Still, because it was completed under an intelligence director viewed skeptically by Democrats, it is unlikely to be seen as the final word on what happened.
The Senate committee plans to review the report and will work with the new administration “to stop any politicization of intelligence and rectify the failures of the Trump administration,” said Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, who is set to lead the panel after the inauguration.
Some of the most damaging material in the report concerns a briefing to Congress in March, soon after Richard Grenell, then the ambassador to Germany, took over as the acting director of national intelligence.
The March talking points, an unclassified version of which was made public, stated that the Kremlin was not aiding “any candidate’s re-election” — a stance at odds with what intelligence officers had told Congress previously: that Russia favored President Trump.
Mr. Zulauf said he was not able to determine who wrote the talking points for the briefing, but found they were “shaped by” Mr. Grenell and other officials in his office.