Ghosts of 2020
Former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf inappropriately interfered with a 2020 intelligence assessment that Russia was trying to meddle in the 2020 election, delaying and making changes to the report that "appear to be based in part on political considerations," according to a report by the department's inspector general released Tuesday.
Wolf "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," and risking "creating a perception of politicization," the Department of Homeland Security watchdog wrote in the April 26 report.
The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis wrote a draft report warning about Russia's efforts to spread misinformation harmful to the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and a whistleblower filed a complaint in September 2020 alleging that Wolf ordered the report to be "held" and expanded because it "made the president look bad."
"Wolf told me that the plan with respect to the administration was to downplay Russian disinformation, that was supporting the Democrats," and instead to "upscale the threat from China" and Iran, the whistleblower, Brian Murphy, told CBS News.
The final report included a "tone box" on efforts by China and Iran to amplify questions about then-President Donald Trump's mental health, an addition criticized by an analytic ombudsman from Intelligence and Analysis. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded in a March 2021 report that Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorized agents to undermine Biden, Iran had expanded its efforts to meddling in the election, and China had determined interfering was not worth the risk.
Wolf, who resigned in January 2021 after several federal judges and the Government Accountability Office determined that he was holding his office illegally, told the DHS inspector general in writing that the report on Russian meddling "was not well written" and wouldn't have given election officials "any knowledge they could use," so he tried to improve the report.