Former top officials were aghast at the move by John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Tuesday declassified a Russian intelligence assessment that was previously rejected by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee as having no factual basis, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The extraordinary disclosure, released to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) earlier Tuesday, rankled Democrats, who said the move effectively put Russian disinformation into the public sphere in order to boost President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about the government’s efforts to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“It’s very disturbing to me that, 35 days before an election, the director of national intelligence would release unverified Russian rumint,” or rumor intelligence, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) told reporters.
And several former senior intelligence officials described Ratcliffe’s move as incendiary and irresponsible, given the manner in which he was publicly releasing unverified information that originated from a foreign adversary.
The assessment claims that Hillary Clinton, then a Democratic candidate for president, personally approved an effort “to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.” But in his letter to Graham, Ratcliffe noted that the U.S. intelligence community “does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”
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