U.S. Democrats demand resumption of election security briefings

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior U.S. Democrats demanded on Tuesday that Republican President Donald Trump’s administration resume election security briefings for the U.S. Congress and threatened to take action to compel compliance.

Intelligence “belongs to the American people,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff and Peter Visclosky, chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said in a letter to Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe.

“Oversight of elections security, foreign malign influence, and election interference is of the highest priority for the U.S. House of Representatives as the 2020 election approaches,” they wrote.

U.S. intelligence found that Russia orchestrated a cyber campaign to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor and said Russia and other countries were seeking to influence this year’s vote as well. Moscow has denied interfering.

The Nov. 3 election will determine whether Trump will spend four more years as president, Republicans will retain control of the Senate and Democrats will keep a majority in the House.

Ratcliffe, a former Republican House member known for fierce loyalty to Trump, notified the House and Senate intelligence committees on Friday that his office would send written reports on election security rather than conduct in-person briefings. [L1N2FW00I]

In their letter, the Democrats asked that intelligence officials provide both congressional leaders and intelligence committees with all election-related reporting and assessments, reinstate a previously scheduled Sept. 17 briefing to the House intelligence panel, reinstate briefings for all House members tentatively scheduled for Sept. 24-25 and continue to provide presidential election campaigns with classified briefings.

“If you are unwilling to resume election-related intelligence briefings to Congress, we will have no choice but to consider the full range of tools available to compel compliance,” the letter said, without further elaboration.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Tom Brown