“The Intelligence on Russia Was Clear. It Was Not Always Presented That Way.”


Representative Jason Crow listened during a classified briefing last summer while a top intelligence official said that Russia was hurting Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign to help President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Crow, Democrat of Colorado, held up an intelligence agency news release from days earlier and demanded to know why it said nothing about Russia’s plans.

“‘When are you going to come out publicly and correct this record?’” Mr. Crow recalled asking the official, William R. Evanina. “‘Because there’s a massive disconnect between what is in your news releases and what you’re saying publicly — because of the pressure of the president.’”

A report released Tuesday made clear that the intelligence community believed that Russia had long attacked Mr. Biden for the benefit of Mr. Trump. But throughout 2020, senior officials bowed to Mr. Trump’s hostility toward any public emphasis of the threat from Russia, and they offered Congress and the public incomplete or misleading portraits of the intelligence on foreign influence in the election.

The picture is complicated. While Mr. Trump’s enmity toward the intelligence community loomed, and his political appointees emphasized the threat from China and Iran, not Russia, career officers did also get key findings about Russian intelligence declassified and disclosed last year.

Soon after that briefing to Congress, Mr. Evanina released details about Kremlin-backed operatives denigrating Mr. Biden, fulfilling the demands of Mr. Crow and other lawmakers. In an interview, Mr. Evanina credited Congress for pushing for more information, but said it took time and effort to get other intelligence officials to declassify the information.

Once made public, the information broke new ground in describing Russian activity, but it also angered the White House.


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