A couple of months before Election Day 2020, Americans learned of some rather serious allegations from a Department of Homeland Security whistleblower. According to a complaint from Brian Murphy, a top DHS intelligence analyst, the agency’s top leaders were, among other things, manipulating reports to conform with the Trump White House’s political agenda.
In fact, that was just the start. Murphy alleged that he was directed to curtail intelligence reports on Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, at least in part because the information made Donald Trump “look bad.” Just as notably, the whistleblower said acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf directed him to stop producing intelligence assessments on Russia and instead focus on possible Chinese and Iranian election interference.
The allegations prompted the inspector general’s office at the cabinet agency to open an investigation — and 20 months later, we now know that Murphy’s claims had merit. NBC News reported:
A top Trump political appointee delayed a report on Russian election interference in the 2020 election in a way that created the perception that intelligence was politicized, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security watchdog. The DHS inspector general report also found that employees of DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis made changes to the analysis of foreign election interference “that appear to be based in part on political considerations, potentially impacting I&A’s compliance with Intelligence Community policy.”
While Wolf was not identified by name, the report from the inspector general’s office was obviously referring to the presidential appointee.
“We found that DHS did not adequately follow its internal processes and comply with applicable [intelligence community] policy standards and requirements when editing and disseminating an I&A intelligence product regarding Russian interference with the 2020 U.S. Presidential election,” the report read.
Relevant employees, the watchdog department added, made "changes" to reports "that appear to be based in part on political considerations."
It added, “The acting secretary participated in the review process multiple times despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product, resulting in the delay of its dissemination on at least one occasion. The delays and deviation from I&A standard process and requirements put [them] at risk of creating a perception of politicization.”
(It’s worth emphasizing that while Trump appointed Wolf to serve as acting DHS secretary in November 2019, there’s ample reason to believe he served in the post illegally.)
I can appreciate why these revelations might seem stale, but let’s not lose sight of their significance. In 2016, Russia attacked U.S. elections for the express purpose of helping put Trump in power. Four years later, Russia again targeted our system, because Vladimir Putin’s government wanted Trump to remain in power.
It was against this backdrop that the Republican’s appointees in key positions of authority not only downplayed Russian tactics, Trump's political appointees also handled intelligence about Russian interference in ways that, as NBC News’ report put it, “created the perception of politicization.”
A CNN report added, the 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.”