Former President Donald Trump‘s Department of Homeland Security delayed and altered an intelligence report related to Russian interference in the 2020 election, making changes that “appear to be based in part on political considerations,” according to a newly released watchdog report.
The April 26 Homeland Security inspector general’s assessment provides a damning look at the way DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis dealt with intelligence related to Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US, stating the department had deviated from its standard procedures in modifying assessments related to Moscow’s targeting of the 2020 presidential election.
The conclusion that Trump’s appointee appeared to have tried to downplay Russian meddling in a key intelligence report is the latest example of how his aides managed his aversion to any information about how Russia might be helping his election prospects. According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Trump officials tried to avoid the topic during meetings and at hearings, because he would become enraged and upset when Russian meddling came up.
The US intelligence community announced during the 2020 campaign that Russia was actively meddling in the election to weaken then-candidate Joe Biden. At the time, Trump downplayed those findings and promoted false claims about Biden that aligned with Russia’s disinformation efforts. The IG report addresses past suspicions that Trump appointees distorted some intelligence reports to foster a more Trump-friendly narrative.
The watchdog found, for example, that then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf had participated in the review process “multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product,” which caused delays and may have helped create the “perception” that assessments were changed for political reasons.
“We determined that the Acting Secretary’s involvement led to the rare occurrence of I&A ceasing dissemination of a product after it had already been approved by the mission manager and circulated via advanced notification,” the report states.