Capitol Hill tensions over handling of the alleged Russian cyber-hacking scandal boiled over late Wednesday, as the chairman of the House intelligence panel blasted U.S. spy agency officials for declining to brief the committee this week.
In a blunt statement that exposed raw feelings and hinted at deeper conflicts, Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican, declared it was “unacceptable” that representatives of what is collectively called the Intelligence Community would not be appearing Thursday before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
He said the CIA had not told the committee in its most recent briefing that it believed Russia had hacked Democratic party computers with the intent of helping Donald Trump win the presidency.
“The committee is deeply concerned that intransigence in sharing intelligence with Congress can enable the manipulation of intelligence for political purposes,” Nunes said in his statement. “The committee is vigorously looking into reports of cyber-attacks during the election campaign, and in particular we want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us.”
Nunes chairs the committee and has dismissed suggestions by some lawmakers that a new or enhanced panel be established to investigate the alleged Russian involvement in hacking into Democratic National Committee and other computers. Citing anonymous sources, the Washington Post and other media outlets have reported over the past week that the CIA has concluded Russian hacking was intended to aid President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign.
Late Wednesday, NBC quoted intelligence community officials as saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. NBC said the intelligence officials said the intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies.
Nunes, a member of the Trump transition team’s executive committee, previously had complained to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the failure of the intelligence community to keep his committee informed.
“I was dismayed that we did not learn earlier, directly from you, about reported conflicting assessments and the CIA’s reported revision of information previously conveyed to this committee,” Nunes wrote Clapper several days ago.
Nunes asked Clapper that the CIA and FBI brief the House panel on their assessments regarding Russia and the election; explain the plans for an investigation that President Barack Obama has ordered into alleged Russian meddling, and deliver a written assessment from the CIA, FBI, and broader intelligence community regarding Russia and the election.
Obama has ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to complete an investigation into the allegations before he leaves office Jan. 20.