Trump staff downplayed threats from Russia and White supremacists as it made him look bad: DHS whistleblower
The intelligence reports were allegedly modified to meet Trump's stand on Antifa and apparently officials were also told to focus more on China and Iran instead of Russia
Top leaders in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked officials time and again to change intelligence assessments to suit President Donald Trump's agenda, a whistleblower has alleged. They included Russia's alleged interference in the US affairs and threats posed by White supremacists, according to documents and sources familiar with the scenario.
Brian Murphy, a former principal deputy undersecretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at DHS, said in a whistleblower complaint that he was instructed by then-acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf to withhold an intelligence notification on Russian activities because it "made the president look bad". Murphy was allegedly demoted because he refused to abide by the instructions. The complaint was released by the House Intelligence Committee on September 9.
Officials told to focus on China, Iran instead of Russia
The explosive revelations claimed that earlier this year, Wolf asked the agency's officials to "cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference" and focus more on gathering information related to activities that were being carried out by China and Iran. Trump has been accused of being more friendly towards the Kremlin even though he says no American president has been more tough on Russia than him. China and Iran, on the other hand, have been among his worst enemies despite the president’s apparent praise for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Trump and many of his top security advisers have repeatedly emphasized on China as a threat to the US while speaking less on the intelligence community’s warnings on Russia’s meddling in the upcoming election.
The complaint, which has been filed with the DHS inspector general, also alleged that Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary, asked the officials to change intelligence reports to ensure they were more in alignment with the president’s remarks about Antifa and "anarchist" groups.
Wolf and Cuccinelli also reportedly tried to change a report to downplay the threat posed by White supremacists and instead put the blame on the Leftist groups out of concerns over how the initial language would reflect on Trump, the CNN said citing a source familiar with the whistleblower’s claims.
Murphy was reassigned in August
Murphy earlier oversaw the DHS intelligence division but in August he was reassigned following the revelation that his office gathered intelligence on two American journalists and protesters in Portland, Oregon. According to Murphy, the reassignment was a retaliation which was nothing but an abuse of authority by Wolf.
The DHS denied Murphy's claim in a statement issued to CBS News. A spokesperson said the department "looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr Murphy". "As Acting Secretary Wolf outlined in his State of the Homeland Address today, DHS is working to address all threats to the homeland regardless of ideology. The Acting Secretary is focused on thwarting election interference from any foreign powers and attacks from any extremist group," the spokesperson added.
Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the committee, issued a statement after CNN reported the details of the complaint that was released. He said: "The whistleblower retaliation complaint filed by former Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically. This puts our nation and its security at grave risk."
"Mr Murphy's allegations are serious — from senior officials suppressing intelligence reports on Russia's election interference and making false statements to Congress about terrorism threats at our southern border, to modifying intelligence assessments to match the President's rhetoric on Antifa and minimizing the threat posed by White supremacists. We have requested Mr Murphy's testimony before the Committee, pursuant to subpoena if necessary, alongside other already scheduled interviews with other DHS officials," he added.
Murphy’s attorney Mark Zaid said in a statement that he had "followed proper lawful whistleblower rules in reporting serious allegations of misconduct against DHS leadership, particularly involving political distortion of intelligence analysis and retaliation," CBS News added.
Schiff said his committee would probe the issue and sent a letter asking Murphy to appear for a deposition on September 21.